Engineering student numbers beat all predictions

Published 25 February 2010

engineeringdrawThe University of New England’s Bachelor of Engineering Technology degree program, now in its third year, has exceeded even the most optimistic predictions in the number of students it has attracted.

With a current enrolment of 80, the program is already alleviating the shortage of engineers in the northern regions of NSW through the participation of local councils and consultancy firms sponsoring traineeships.

Anthony Rintala is now in the third year of a traineeship with Armidale Dumaresq Council, where he contributes to roadwork carried out by the Council’s Transport Department while studying part-time at UNE with the Council’s support. Anthony, who is the President of the newly-founded UNE Engineering Society, spoke from experience when he said that the UNE campus was “a lot more relaxed and friendly” than its city counterparts in Melbourne (his home town), and that he was glad he had “made the big move” to Armidale.

Sharn Woolnough, from Yamba, is also in the third year of a traineeship with Armidale Dumaresq Council. Sharn, who helps the Council’s Utilities Department with work on water and sewerage pipelines, agreed that the UNE environment was “welcoming” and the course itself first-rate. He said he’d like to remain in the region – working for local government – after graduation.

The Bachelor of Engineering Technology degree program comprises three years of full-time study or its part-time equivalent. “It’s geared towards engineering practice in regional Australia,” said Rex Glencross-Grant, one of the program’s conveners. “Our students range in age from school-leavers to people in their 50s. We’re appealing to people out there in the industry who want to upgrade their qualifications.”

Mr Glencross-Grant explained that the UNE course was conducted in partnership with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), and allowed for articulation into the final year of USQ’s four-year professional engineering degree program. He added that he and his colleagues were planning to provide another option for Bachelor of Engineering Technology graduates – articulation into a UNE Master’s degree program.

UNE – in collaboration with the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), the Women in Engineering group within Engineers Australia, and local professional organisations and employers – is working to attract more women students into engineering. “We currently have six women enrolled in the degree program,” Mr Glencross-Grant said. “This is about 8 per cent of the total cohort, which is close to the national average for engineering. But we’re planning on boosting our female proportion to 20-25 per cent by 2012, with the aim of having the highest proportion of women in Australian engineering schools. Engineering is an excellent career choice for women.”

Ann Pitkeathly, RTA’s Principal Adviser on Workplace Diversity and Equity, visited the University last week to discuss strategies to attract senior high-school girls to the UNE program. “We want to make a joint approach to schools that raises the profile of engineering for students, parents, and careers advisers,” Ms Pitkeathly said.

She said that the RTA, which sponsors engineering scholarships at six NSW universities – including two at UNE this year – aimed to eventually award 30 per cent of its scholarships to women students.

Enya Clarke from Glen Innes, a first-year full-time student in the UNE program, said she had always been interested in engineering as a career, and urged women with an interest in engineering to “just go for it”. Clicking on the image displayed here reveals a photograph of Enya Clarke (right) with Dr Janelle Wilkes, a UNE lecturer in Environmental Engineering.