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In New Zealand, engineering is in, teaching out

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The shift in preference is said to be due to students choosing degrees with promising job prospects. Source: Shutterstock

Students are enrolling by the droves in health, engineering and information technology in New Zealand. Primary industries and environmental studies are popular too, but not the once-dominant degrees of bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of commerce (BCom).

The shift in preference is said to be due to students choosing degrees with promising job prospects, according to NZ Herald.

Nursing student Samantha Menezes says the big difference between nursing and more general degrees such as a bachelor of arts is that nurses know where they’re heading:

“My friends who come out with a bachelor of commerce or arts get to a point where it’s, ‘I’ve done that, what now?'”

“In that regard, I’m really lucky to do a degree like nursing because you are quite sure of where you want to go, as opposed to still trying to figure that out. Definitely, there’s a lot more security in it.”

The number of full-time students at bachelor or higher levels in health, engineering and IT from 2008 to 2016, had dramatically risen about 43 to 44 percent, according to figures disclosed in a set of new reports by the Ministry of Education.

In contrast, accounting enrollment fell by 12 percent and teacher trainees fell by 10 percent.

While those studying in the broad fields of management and commerce are up two percent and the old BA (now called “society and culture”) is up three percent, both fields declined as proportions of total student numbers.

The government has been pumping funds into STEM (science, engineering, technology and maths) and IT subjects under a strategy set by the former National Government with a top priority of “delivering skills for industry” by matching skills developed through tertiary education to labour market needs.

“These are the types of skills needed for innovation and economic growth,” according to its website.

There have been campaigns to recruit more engineering students as well as the opening of three graduate schools in information and communications technology in Auckland, Wellington and the South Island.

Since 2010, it had also funded 200 extra medical school places.

Engineering NZ Chief Executive Susan Freeman-Greene said the recruitment campaign for engineering boosted numbers in degree courses, but there was still a big shortage of technicians and technologists training in institutes of technology and polytechnics.

“There is a massive ongoing need for more engineers in some of the engineering disciplines,” she said.

New Zealand’s growing high-tech sector still lacks IT graduates too, according to Technology Investment Network Managing Director Greg Shanahan.

“If you look at companies like XeroGentrack or Vista, the bulk of their staff are in software development and coding,” Shanahan said.

“So if young students are studying science and software and computer science ahead of more commercial subjects, that’s a good thing.”

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