Taking the next step

  • Bachelor of Engineering Technology (Civil Engineering)

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As a child Anita Jackson always wanted to understand how things work. Completing a Bachelor of Engineering Technology with the Open Polytechnic meant that she could align her interests with a career.

“I always liked maths – growing up, it was my favourite subject at school. My choice to study engineering also followed on from my previous studies,” says Anita.

Working as a full-time Engineering Technician at the Tauranga-based engineering company Redco NZ, Anita wanted to find a way to keep working while pursuing further studies. Distance learning was the best choice.

“I had just bought a house so realistically I had to work full time in order to keep my repayments up. There was no local university I could study through so I looked around and found Open Polytechnic.”

For the Bachelor of Engineering Technology (Civil Engineering) Open Polytechnic utilises course materials from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) under a license agreement. The Bachelor of Engineering Technology provides students with the knowledge and skills to be admitted as an Engineering Technologist with the Institution of Professional Engineers in New Zealand.

“I found the course really useful and all of the papers very applicable. I particularly valued the timeline and project management components and the technical and practical papers.”

Studying by distance suited Anita well and meant she could work full-time while acquiring valuable practical skills on the job. “It was great as I was able to study in my own time. Sometimes it was difficult to maintain deadlines but it was good to be flexible and work full-time. I could also run ideas past my work colleagues as well as give one of my tutors a call."

Anita says her new role as Graduate Engineer provides her with a lot of variety, with approximately 20 per cent of her time spent on site, and the remaining time spent on design.

“The drawing aspect involves structural detailing for building and resource consents, providing constructional drawings for site projects, and using both CAD and Revit software systems.

“The design element involves liaising with clients and contractors and determining the building structure according to budget, ranging from medium industrial sized buildings to house alterations. I’m also involved in project management and site inspections, as well as working with contractors to clarify or amend certain details on site. Practicality is a huge part of success.”

When Anita committed herself to study while working full-time, she never wanted to just scrape by.

“There were probably two times when I had a late night to finish an assignment but most of the time I was on top of it. Some exams involved cramming but overall, studying has really improved my time management skills and my ability to manage several projects at once.

“While I would never take back my earlier on-campus student experience, I can’t explain the benefits of working while studying, it’s huge, and something I will never regret. It also meant I could apply what I was learning in my studies to my job instantly, giving me a real edge over other prospective employees.

With a skill shortage in engineering in New Zealand, Anita is also an Ambassador for ‘Future-In-Tech’, a government-funded initiative of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ).

“My part involves going to schools and raising awareness about what an engineer does, discussing ways and options available to do it.

“It’s been a pretty positive eye-opener for them so far.”

Playing football competitively for Tauranga City, as well as coaching gymnastics and enjoying the outdoors, Anita says it is important to find and seize opportunities in life.

“I recommend gaining experience in anything that’s even remotely related to what it is you want to do. I’ve found the value of working while studying has been of huge benefit to my career.”

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