A Different Path

From a family of social workers, nurses, mechanics and police officers Teresa Toailoa is setting out on a path of her own in Engineering. The 20-year-old enrolled into the NZ Diploma of Engineering at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) which offered ten scholarships for Māori, Pasifika and female engineering students aged 25 and under.



“I like to put myself in situations where I feel like I’d be uncomfortable, to see if I can handle it,” says Teresa who had initially taken a break from studying, after leaving Ōtāhuhu College.


However after working for a bit she soon decided she needed to do something about her future, and enrolled at MIT.


“I just know putting in this amount of work and sacrifice will pay off in the long run. You can work your way up in a job but still end up having to come back to study, may as well get it done now.”


Before opting for engineering, the first year student looked into becoming a social worker as she wanted a career that would service the community.


In the end she chose Engineering, which she says is just another way of serving the community- which she admits is a path less travelled by Pacific people.


MIT Deputy Chief Executive – Pasifika, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga agrees, and as a way to change this the institute offered ten scholarships for Māori, Pasifika and female engineering students aged 25 and under.


“It’s great to see young Pacific people broadening their horizons and embracing new fields like engineering or digital technologies offered through MIT,” says Peseta Sam.


“We know this will lead to stable, well-paying jobs. It’s vital our communities get our numbers participating in these professions up.”


Although Teresa has only just finished the first semester of the two-year course, she is excited about the employment opportunities the qualification opens up.


She says four of her fellow diploma students recently attended a civil engineering conference and all of them left the event with job offers.


Head of MIT’s Engineering School Dr Neel Pandey says civil engineering is booming and MIT graduates don’t have problems finding work.


A recent study of Ministry of Education data showed that MIT graduates have the best outcomes when it comes to employment rates with median incomes amongst the highest for all New Zealand’s universities and polytechs five years after study.


“It’s a very satisfying job. You’re working to solve the country’s problems,” he says.


He credits MIT graduates’ employment success rates to MIT’s hands on approach to teaching.



Students in the NZ Diploma of Engineering – Civil, learn what they need to know to make a contribution in the workplace on day one in a variety of fields from geotech to wastewater to surveying.


“Our school focuses on practical delivery of programmes,” says Dr Pandey, “we work closely with industry so graduates can ‘hit the ground running’”.

Peseta Sam says it’s still important that students develop an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics earlier in their learning and that a home environment that is conducive to this is imperative.


“Moving into a career in engineering starts at school,” he says, “by taking the STEM subjects seriously.


“However parents can play an important role in encouraging their children to make this commitment.”


Peseta Sam advises that upon entering tertiary study it’s important to stay committed.


Which is why at MIT there is help on hand if needed, students from previous years hold extra classes and mentoring sessions for those in the current intake that require support.


Teresa has found these very helpful to get back into study mode after her prolonged study break.


But she is pushing forward nonetheless, optimistic about her future career.


“Taking civil engineering is a massive leap into a big pond.


“I’m just taking it semester by semester,” she says.


With that attitude there’s no doubt Teresa will go far.