Students encouraged to try apprenticeship before a university degree

Jesse Waetford-Wilson started his building apprentice after completing a bachelor of arts degree.
SUPPLIED

Jesse Waetford-Wilson started his building apprentice after completing a bachelor of arts degree.

School-leavers should test the waters of their desired career with an apprenticeship before committing to a university degree, industry experts say.

Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams said Germany's dual-system that encouraged students to complete apprenticeships before attending university, could save 17-year-old New Zealanders time and money if it was adopted here.

"The classic experience in New Zealand is the other way around … the Germans have got it right."

At least 90 per cent of engineering students at the South Westphalia University of applied Sciences in Meschede, Germany, completed three-year apprenticeships with manufacturing companies before starting a degree, a university spokesman told a group of visiting New Zealand manufacturers this month.

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Building apprentice Jesse Waetford-Wilson said he felt pressured to attend university immediately after finishing school.

Germany's tertiary education system and manufacturing industry encourages engineering students to complete three-year ...
STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ

Germany's tertiary education system and manufacturing industry encourages engineering students to complete three-year apprenticeships before getting their degree.

He said he did not regret completing his bachelor of arts degree in psychology and management or his student loan, but if he had completed his apprenticeship first, he may have chosen to study a different degree.

Apprentice Training New Zealand Trust (ATNZ) general manager Toni Christie said Germany's apprenticeship-first model was "excellent" and if adopted here, could help to fill trade vacancies in New Zealands.

New Zealand has more than 43,000 apprentices. The Government is aiming to have at least 50,000 in apprenticeship courses by 2020.

Christie said ATNZ had 361 engineering apprentices "earning and learning" at the moment.

University would still be there if those apprentices wanted to develop their careers, Christie said.

If graduates were bolstered with an apprenticeship and a university degree they would be more attractive to employers, ...

If graduates were bolstered with an apprenticeship and a university degree they would be more attractive to employers, Industry Training Federation boss Josh Williams says.

Williams said students bolstered with an apprenticeship qualification would better understand the theoretical elements taught at university.

He said companies often had to start again with graduates because they had no practical skills for the workforce.

Auckland University's faculty of engineering deputy dean Gerard Rowe said the university's four-year engineering degree required students to complete 800 hours of practical work before graduating.

Lockmaker Assa Abloy manufacturing and engineering manager Marc Simkin said the company would save some time and money if the graduates it hired to work on their factory floor had apprenticeships as well as degrees.

But, they would still need to be trained to understand the specific production line, Simkin said.

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Assa Abloy hired a chemical engineer graduate who now runs its manufacturing operations.

Simkin said the graduates degree gave him a better understanding of engineering, but he still had to learn about manufacturing and Assa Abloy's locks.

Williams said while Germany's apprenticeship-first model was inspirational, it would be difficult to replicate in New Zealand because due to a lack of big manufacturers to take on a lot of apprentices.

Rowe said New Zealand's shortage of tradespeople would deter apprentices from going to university because they were needed in the industry.

"It is definitely possible to move from a trade apprentice to a degree … [But] why would they?" Rowe said.

 - Stuff

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