NorthTec Student Works Towards a Career

6 January 2016

NorthTec Student Works Towards a Career

A NorthTec environmental science student is hard at work at her summer job, helping to clean up Whangarei’s fresh water systems for the Northland Regional Council.

Jenny Gillanders, who is halfway through a degree in Applied Science, secured full-time work over the summer break after assisting with a pilot project for the NRC’s Land Management Team.

Jenny’s work was done as part of her practicum, and she is now enjoying the opportunity to earn an income as well as gaining great work experience and expanding her professional networks.

She is carrying out “ground-truthing” to collect data on stock exclusion, erosion, fish passage barriers and riparian habitat. The data she gathers can then be analysed by the team at NRC, enabling them to identify potential areas for improvement to help improve water quality in the Whangarei harbour catchment.

A former veterinary nurse, Jenny spent several years travelling and working overseas, including Australia and the UK. When she returned to New Zealand after a lengthy absence, she decided it was time for a career change and made the major commitment to retrain in another field.

Having always been keen on the environment, Jenny decided to look at the education options available in New Zealand. After considering several university courses, she decided to apply to NorthTec because of the unique structure of its programmes, which enables students to gain three qualifications over three years.     

After one year, students gain a certificate in Conservation and Environmental Management; after two years they earn a diploma; and after successful completion of the third year, students are awarded a Bachelor of Applied Science (Biodiversity Management) - a Unitec degree, delivered and awarded by NorthTec in Whangarei.

Jenny, who spent her primary school years in Pakaraka, near Kerikeri, said: “One of the key selling points for NorthTec was that every year you get a qualification. I actually started this course doubting I could get a degree; I was hoping I could get through the first two years.

“I looked at different study options including universities, but I decided I didn’t want to be just a number in a large class. I wanted to be able to walk up to my tutors and ask for help. So I set up a meeting with (tutor) Olly Ball – he was amazing, I instantly connected with him as a tutor and felt really comfortable. I really felt that the tutors here were interested in their students, and I wasn’t going to be just a number.

“The tutors are not just teachers, they have all had really worthwhile careers in their field. I am definitely trying a whole lot harder than in high school because I want to impress the tutors and do my best for them.”

Jenny said another reason she chose NorthTec was that it has a strong relationship with employers and a good employment record for graduates, because the tutors have all previously worked in their field.

She is no stranger to holiday jobs, having previously worked alongside NorthTec science tutor, Dai Morgan, assisting him with his weta research project. She has also worked for the Native Forest Restoration Trust, clearing noxious weeds at the William Upton Hewett Memorial Reserve, near Pipiwai.

Jenny hopes that after graduation she will secure permanent environmental management work in a territorial council.

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