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Trades degree gets go-ahead

Trades degree gets go-ahead

Tradespeople can now do higher-level study with a UNITEC degree designed specifically for them receiving the go-ahead from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

As an undergraduate degree aimed at tradespeople who want to advance their thinking skills and take the next step in their careers, the Bachelor of Applied Technology is the first of its kind in New Zealand. It will be offered at UNITEC from 2004.

The degree was approved and accredited by an NZQA panel made up of industry representatives and academics from New Zealand and Australian universities and chaired by Dr Ranganui Walker from the University of Auckland.

UNITEC academic Ray Meldrum helped to develop the degree programme and said the panel had enthusiastically endorsed the degree, saying it was innovative and responsive to industry.

"Although the degree is applied and hands-on, in some ways it's almost like a Bachelor of Arts for tradespeople, because it's generic and encourages students to think about the implications of their trades-related projects in a societal context."

Mr Meldrum said that industry was supportive of the degree. "There are a lot of people out there in industry who want to transform themselves and their businesses. Currently, there is no New Zealand degree that has been designed specifically for tradespeople. If they want to get higher qualifications they have to study in another discipline such as engineering or do a general business degree."

Students in the new programme can do courses specific to their trade, with specialisations in automotive engineering, building, electrotechnology, furniture-making, joinery, marine, and plumbing and gasfitting, as well as generic courses from other disciplines taught at UNITEC, such as project management, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Most assessments were project-based, said Mr Meldrum, with the emphasis on hands-on learning. "Students need to show they understand the subject by doing it and being able to explain why they did it that way."

Technical skills aged quickly in the modern trades, he said, so the emphasis was on arming students with the capabilities to adapt to the changing work environment.

"A lot of people who will do this degree will be experienced tradespeople and won't need to do the technical courses, as they can get credits for the trades skills they already possess."

The degree also offers a study pathway to current UNITEC students. Corey Moor is in the first year of the Diploma in Applied Technology and is switching to the degree next year. He said he enrolled in the Diploma because of an interest in the automotive trade, but after getting a taste of education he was keen on doing more. "I didn't realise how interesting education in this area could be.

"You get a deeper understanding of how things work and the good thing about my studies is that they're not just restricted to the automotive trade. In the long-term, I'd like to manage an automotive business or set up my own, and with the degree I'll have options."

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