Polytechnic plugs engineering gap

By Jenee Tibshraeny

The Bay of Plenty Polytechnic has added a new Diploma in Civil Engineering to meet its curriculum this year and fill a skills gap.

Thirteen fulltime and seven part-time students are enrolled in the industry-recognised course, which began last Monday.

Higgins Bay of Plenty branch manager Alex Reid said there was a huge demand nationally for civil engineers.

"We as a company are struggling to get them ... struggling to keep engineers locally."

Civil engineers are flocking to Australia for more competitive salaries, and the demand for expertise in Christchurch keeps growing as the rebuild gets underway.

Nonetheless, the BOP Polytech's engineering group leader, Paul Roberts, said there was a huge demand for civil technicians and engineers in the region due to the rapid growth and the associated need to upgrade roads and bridges. Mr Roberts said the Tauranga Eastern Link was a substantive roading job that was due to be completed in 2016, and the New Zealand Transport Agency had opened more infrastructure work for contractors.

Mr Roberts had been working with Mr Reid, and other industry leaders, to push for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to approve the course.

The Government announced it would provide 1000 extra places for engineering students at universities and polytechnics across the country at the end of last year.

The Diploma of Civil Engineering adds to the mechanical and electrical engineering courses already offered at the polytechnic.

Danny Kayes, 18, received a high sporting performance scholarship from the BOP Polytechnic to have all his course fees paid for.

The former Mount College student said the opportunity to stay connected with his rugby and waterpolo teams in the area, while studying, was attractive.

After completing the two-year diploma, he said he would consider continuing his studies to complete a degree in engineering, or look for work with local firms.

"I have heard Christchurch has a massive demand, so that's another option for me," he said.

The University of Auckland has received a record 2283 applications to its Bachelor of Engineering programme, a rise of 9 per cent from this time last year. This is a trend which has seen the number of undergraduate engineering students go from 2213 five years ago to 2730 expected in 2013.

Fulton Hogan Bay of Plenty regional manager Gavin Riddle said it was a diverse, dynamic field.

"It's the big toys for big boys. It's just happening. You can see the fruits of your labour being an engineer. I think that's what attracts a lot of guys."

"If guys are prepared to move around, there will be opportunities."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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