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Civil Engineering Technician/​Draughtsperson

Kaihangarau/​Kaihoahoa Mataaro Metarahi

Alternative titles for this job

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople plan and draw the technical details for building and repairing roads, bridges, buildings and other structures.

Pay

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople at entry level usually earn

$37K-$55K per year

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople with more than four years' experience usually earn

$60K-$100K per year

Source: Futureintech, 2016.

Job opportunities

Job opportunities for engineering technicians/draughtspeople are good due to a shortage of workers.

Pay

Pay for civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople depends on where they work, and how much experience they have:

  • Civil engineering cadets usually earn minimum wage to $50,000 a year (working while completing a New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE) part time).
  • Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople with an NZDE or similar qualification, usually start on $40,000 to $55,000. 
  • Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople with more than four years' experience usually earn $60,000 to $80,000.
  • Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople who move into a team leader role can earn $80,000 to $100,000. 

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople working for contracting companies may also get a vehicle and other benefits. 

Source: Futureintech, 2016.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople may do some or all of the following:

  • survey and measure sites
  • make detailed drawings of planned structures using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • prepare plans for construction including costings and timetables
  • write detailed building-assembly or process instructions and specifications
  • check work done by contractors and report on progress
  • report and discuss problems with engineers
  • liaise with clients, contractors and subcontractors, and members of the public.

Skills and knowledge

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople need to have:

  • knowledge of civil engineering practices and technical drawing
  • knowledge of building methods and materials
  • skill in analysing and interpreting information such as client requirements, plans and designs
  • computer skills, including the ability to use computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • knowledge of relevant legislation and processes such as the Resource Management Act, the New Zealand Building Code, local by-laws and town planning regulations.

Working conditions

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may be required to work evenings to meet deadlines
  • work in offices and on building sites
  • may travel to engineering projects around New Zealand or overseas.

What's the job really like?

Leon Vasey

Leon Vasey

CAD Design Technician

The satisfaction of contributing to engineering projects

As a CAD design technician, Leon Vasey's job is to help design and put on paper the plans for new developments such as roads and cycleways.

"For a road, we work from the three-dimensional topo [topographical] map the surveyors do. Then we'll plot on the alignment for the new road. I do a schedule of quantities of materials that will be needed, and give that to our engineers. They use that to write up the specifications and put the job out to tender.

"I get satisfaction out of seeing a good drawing and knowing someone is going to build something like a road or a bridge from it."

Attention to detail a must

"You have to be quite methodical. For instance, when designing a road all the drainage has to be designed. We have to check all the cut slopes and fill slopes [where material needs to be removed or added] every 20 metres, and check that the fall into people's driveways isn't too steep.

"They are not major items, but you have to check. If you don't, you can guarantee a problem is going to pop up."

Civil engineering technician video

Lisa checks out how infrastructure projects such as roads, buildings, tunnels, bridges and wastewater systems are planned and executed - 7.56 mins. (Video courtesy of Connexis)

Lisa: Hi, my name is Lisa, I am 17 years old. My preferred subjects at school include mathematics with calculus and statistics and therefore I’m looking at the job of being a civil engineering technician.

Clinton: Civil engineering technicians handle the technical details for building and maintaining infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, tunnels, buildings and waste water systems. Opus International Consultants is New Zealand’s largest infrastructure consultancy with 36 offices nationwide. They provide design and project management across a wide range of sectors and, as a leading global consultancy, offer career opportunities across a wide array of engineering disciplines.

Clinton: Mel Wright is a Civil engineering technician with Opus and she’ll be showing Lisa some aspects of her job.

Mel: The first thing we have to do is learn about safety, and you’ve gone through an induction which is great so now we need to go and get you your safety gear.

Clinton: Lisa is kitted out in safety gear…

Mel: We look super cool!

Clinton: …then it’s off to Auckland’s North Western Motorway extension where she’s going to help with a soil nail test. On this site, soil nails have been sunk 12 metres horizontally into the earth, to anchor the retaining walls of the overbridge.

Shane: On this job where we’re present there are three layers – there’s a clay layer up the top, up higher, there’s a weathered sandstone layer and at the moment we’re in an un-weathered sandstone layer, so that’s the layer we’re going to test. I’ll get you to record all our readings and stuff for us. The way that this test works is we’ve got a jacking system set up here. We apply a force to the soil nail to try and pull it out and we measure the extension of that corresponding to it.

Shane: What will happen with this process now is that we again load it up further, apply more force, leave it for a duration and measure that extension over again.

Lisa: Alright.

Shane: We do this over a continual process to check that the soil nail over a period of time is going to withstand that weight.

Mel: I enjoying getting out of the office and seeing things being built but also being in the office is good. You can also have lots to do with the design, so you get the best of both worlds.

Clinton: Structural draughting is another aspect of the job – and it’s Warren Kelly’s specialty.

Lisa: What is the name of the software application that you’re using?

Warren: This is Autocad 2010. This is the latest software that we have so far and this shows pretty much all the foundation work that goes underground and how we do it. It’s essentially a tracing exercise where we’ll trace around all the architectural outlines and then offset our foundation lines for the contract that we have to build.

Lisa: What about your tertiary studies that you need?

Warren: My tertiary studies are paid for by Opus and I do a Diploma in Civil Engineering at Unitech. I’m still studying that now.

Clinton: Civil engineering cadets with Opus are required to complete a Level 6 diploma - the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (Civil), which is studied alongside InfraTrain’s National Diploma in Civil Engineering.

Mel: It’s a very good way of doing things because you get the work experience. You get to go out onsite and experience things and find out what you like while you’re learning so by the time you’re finished you have your qualification, you have work experience and you also know where you want to go.

Clinton: Then it’s back into safety gear for an inspection at the new Manukau train station. This involves checking the reinforcing matches the specifications on the plans before the concrete is poured.

Mel: So how many bars have we got running down the exterior of this?

Lisa: Nine.

Mel: Nine bars? Could you please check for me that we’ve got nine bars here?

Lisa: Sure.

Mel: Engineering is great for anybody who likes to make a difference, who likes to solve problems and see things that they’ve been doing getting built.

Lisa: 200.

Mel: That’s great.

Mel: So this means that this reinforcing complies with our plans. Let’s go and do some surveying.

Clinton: They also have to check enough dirt has been excavated from the floor of the new station.

Mel: Now this is surveying equipment – you’ve got the tripod and we’ve got a theodolite on here – it’s used to measure distances and heights. What we’re going to do today is measure – over here we have a cut, and they want the level of the soil to be 2 metres below, so we need to check that this has been done.

Mel: I really enjoy my job. I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. I’m able to go and do things and actually see them being built and watch other people use them. You are helping people, you are building roads and buildings and giving people fresh water and taking their waste and it’s a very rewarding job because you’re dealing with people a lot of the time, you are making their lives better.

Lisa: 400mm.

Clinton: To help her visualise the final result, Mel shows Lisa the Grafton railway station.

Mel: This is a similar situation to what we saw in Manukau.

Lisa: Oh look there’s the concrete that we saw.

Mel: Yes very similar, so hopefully when Manukau is finished it will look something like this.

Clinton: So does Mel think Lisa is on track for a career in the industry?

Mel: I think Lisa did really well, especially in the surveying and I wish her all the best in her career path.

Lisa: There is more to civil engineering than I actually expected and hopefully in a couple of years’ time I’ll be looking at becoming a civil engineering technician.

Clinton: If you’re interested in a career as a civil engineering technician, you’ll need NCEA physics and maths, plus a general aptitude for problem solving. One way to enter the industry is to study for a New Zealand Diploma of Engineering (Civil), at a polytech. Another is to get a cadetship with a company and study through block courses. As you gain experience on the job you can work towards a National Diploma in Civil Engineering (Applied). This qualification is offered through InfraTrain and is required to become registered as a certified engineering technician. These two diplomas provides a good grounding if you wish to progress to a civil engineering degree at a later stage.

Entry requirements

Civil engineering technician

To become a civil engineering technician you need to complete a New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE), specialising in civil engineering. This qualification takes two years of full-time study to complete. Alternatively, some companies offer cadetships so you can train while working and study part time towards the diploma.

Once you've completed the NZDE and are working, you can complete the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering Practice (NZDEP), which is a work-based qualification that is assessed on the job.

An NZDEP enables you to become a certified engineering technician and an associate member of Engineering New Zealand.

Civil engineering draughtsperson

Employers prefer to hire engineering draughtspeople with experience in specific CAD (computer-aided design) software. Alternatively, you may be able to complete a diploma in CAD. A Diploma in Engineering is not necessary to become a draughtsperson, but it is useful. 

Secondary education

To gain entry into the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE), it is recommended that you have a minimum of 48 NCEA credits at Level 2 in four subjects, including at least 12 credits in maths. Physics is also highly recommended, and technology subjects may be useful.

Personal requirements

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople need to be:

  • good at problem-solving
  • organised and responsible
  • practical, methodical and accurate
  • able to make good judgements
  • able to work well under pressure
  • physically fit and healthy.

Useful experience

Useful experience for civil engineering technicians/draftspeople includes:

  • work in the engineering or building and construction industry
  • work with tools and machinery
  • draughting experience.

A good way to gain industry experience is to do a cadetship or get part-time work with an engineering firm.

Registration

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople can register as chartered engineering technicians with Engineering New Zealand.

Find out more about training

Connexis
(07) 834 3038 - www.connexis.org.nz
Engineering New Zealand
(04) 473 9444 - hello@engineeringnz.org - www.engineeringnz.org
NZ Institute of Highway Technology (NZIHT)
(06) 759 7065 - admin@nziht.co.nz - www.nziht.co.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Investment in infrastructure creates opportunities in civil engineering

Government investment in infrastructure such as roads and water management is creating job opportunities for civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople, particularly those with experience in:

  • road maintenance and development
  • rail maintenance and development
  • bridge projects
  • river engineering
  • waste water management.

A construction boom is also increasing demand for civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople.

As a result, civil engineering technician appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. Both civil engineering technician and civil engineering draughtsperson appear on Immigration New Zealand's construction and infrastructure skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople from overseas to work in New Zealand.

Types of employers varied

Most civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople work for:

  • private engineering consultancies
  • construction firms
  • government agencies such as NZ Transport Agency
  • infrastructure and utility companies such as railway and electricity companies.

Sources

  • Hays, 'Hays Quarterly Report, Engineering', April 2016, (www.hays.net.nz).
  • Hays, 'Land Development Now Underpinning Job Activity' (media release), 29 October 2015, (www.scoop.co.nz). 
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • National Infrastructure Unit, 'National Infrastructure Plan – August 2015', (www.infrastructure.govt.nz).
  • Rashbrooke, M, writer/researcher, Futureintech, Careers New Zealand interview, June 2016. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople can progress within an engineering firm up to partner level. Some become civil engineers by completing a Bachelor of Engineering Technology or a Bachelor of Engineering. Courses completed for the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering can often be cross-credited towards a degree.

Civil engineering technicians may specialise in a particular area such as water, construction or transport engineering, or become project managers.

Civil engineering technicians/draughtspeople may work as:

Civil engineering draughtsperson
Civil engineering draughtspeople prepare detailed drawings and plans for civil engineering work to support civil engineers and engineering technologists.
Civil engineering technician
Civil engineering technicians test construction materials, prepare sketches, and assist in estimating costs to support civil engineers and engineering technologists.
Roland Devine making notes on a map

Roland Devine marks the site of a new project on a map

Last updated 11 September 2019