UCOL graduates Jessa McIntyre-Taylor, left, and Grace McNicholl, centre right, work with Fonterra’s Bob Stewart, centre left, and Stuart Sorrell.
With Manawatū’s scientific sector growing from strength to strength, the demand for talented graduates is experiencing the same.
UCOL’s New Zealand diploma of applied science is seeing this first hand, with its graduates getting snapped up by industry.
Most diploma graduates from the past four years are now thriving at various scientific institutions, including Fonterra’s research and development centre, AgResearch, NZ Pharmaceuticals and Massey University’s Riddet Centre.
Senior lecturer Bob Stewart said it was UCOL’s best kept secret, but a secret they were keen to share.
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Jessa McIntyre-Taylor and Grace McNicholl are two of seven UCOL graduates who work at Fonterra in analytical chemistry positions.
Thirty-one-year-old Jessa McIntyre-Taylor wanted to study at UCOL as a new mum and was delighted to discover a passion for science and that it could provide her with a career path.
McIntyre-Taylor did her work placement with Fonterra after graduating with a diploma of applied science.
“When an opportunity arose for me to work at Fonterra, I jumped at the chance.”
McIntyre-Taylor is now embarking on her bachelor of applied science, one paper per semester, as she works fulltime.
“I have found I can make study fit around my life, rather than my life fit around study.”
McNicholl has been at Fonterra for seven years. The 29-year-old secured a job from her placement.
“I felt lucky I was in the right place at the right time,” she said.
McNicholl said it never hurt to continue studying, even while holding down a fulltime job, so she was also working towards her bachelor of applied science.
Fonterra’s analytical chemistry manager, Stuart Sorrell, said supporting UCOL students in the workplace as they carried out their industry science projects was a win-win.
“The placement students we receive from UCOL are of a very high calibre and we are in the perfect position to observe their ability to learn in the workplace.
“The students get valuable experience, and we have a quality source of potential laboratory staff.”
UCOL’s New Zealand diploma in applied science (level 5) is a hands-on programme that teaches proficiency in basic laboratory techniques.
Students spend about 80 per cent of their study time in the lab, up to five hours per day, and then back that practical learning up with 20 per cent theory.
The programme covers microbiology, chemistry, and biochemistry and imbedded in that is quality assurance, health and safety and learning computer lab software.
Some graduates choose to seek employment as a lab technician, but many continue on to the diploma in applied science (level 6).
The level 6 programme employs more sophisticated techniques and the use of high-end scientific equipment.
Students are also introduced to the skills required for producing research projects.
In the second semester, students have 300 hours’ placement in a laboratory.
“It is the best job interview ever,” Stewart said. “And most are offered employment by the end of their placement.”
Recognising the demand for highly qualified laboratory scientists, UCOL introduced the bachelor of applied science in 2020.
The three-year degree takes things a step further and encourages critical thinking and research.
Degree students are inspired to challenge and question what they have learned and subsequently propose a subject and budget for their research project.
As part of their mini thesis, they will produce a report and data analysis, culminating in a full industry report.
“Several students have been lucky enough to do their research projects at their workplace.
“It works well because the student can continue their studies, and the employer is benefiting from the results of their research project.
“We are lucky to have the validation of several large research institutions in the region.
We are always keen to receive their feedback of what skills the industry requires, so we can ensure our graduates are job ready.”