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Kha Pham Nguyen

A family history in construction and an interest in maths, design and science has led former Wellington College student Kha Pham Nguyen to pursue a career in engineering. “There can’t be a better way to change the world and help others than being in the engineering industry,” he says.

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Kha is part-way through a Bachelor of Engineering Technology at Ara, having chosen the institute after attending an open day at the Christchurch campus. “I looked at a range of options and chose Ara because it’s located at the heart of the Christchurch rebuild and it offers a lot of opportunities to its engineering students. I was also impressed at the open day by how supportive the tutors were, and the institute’s strong connections with industry.”

Kha is enjoying his studies, in particular acquiring a wide range of knowledge in all areas within civil engineering, and getting practical experience in real situations. “Learning from tutors who have ‘been there, done that’ is exciting,” he says. “We don’t just learn in the classroom. For example, for a site investigation paper, we performed an actual geotechnical investigation at an earthquake damaged property in Sumner in preparation for its rebuild. Being able to put my knowledge to work like that made for a very exciting learning experience.”

In addition to his studies, Kha is working two days a week as an engineering technician for international engineering consultancy, Beca. “I’m currently working in the team that’s designing major cycle ways around Christchurch for the city council. I’ve done cost estimates and just recently started on some computer designing and detailing of the routes. My day involves getting training from the company, design work and having meetings with senior engineers and clients. It has been fun, exciting and intimidating at times moving from being a student to sitting at the discussion table with senior engineers and clients.”

Kha believes his Ara training has prepared him very well for his employment at Beca. “The Bachelor of Engineering Technology has made it extremely easy for me to get started at work. The emphasis on strong communication skills and real-life scenario knowledge has translated really well into my days at work and I fit just right in to the team.”

After completing his degree, Kha hopes to transition into Beca’s graduate programme. “For the next few years I plan to build on my knowledge as an infrastructure engineering technologist. I also want to get my competency recognised through IPENZ membership and eventually become a professional engineer. Working on projects around the world with engineers from other countries would be a career highlight.”