Graduate Diploma in Professional Practice affirms extensive military career experience

Learner Stories
9 July 2020
Engineering/ aircraft/military
Steve Saunders
Graduate Diploma in Professional Practice (Occupational Health and Safety)

With a military career spanning two decades and two countries – the United Kingdom and New Zealand – Steve Saunders knows more than a thing or two about aircraft engineering, engineer training and assessment, policy and strategy development, and health and safety management.

However, he wanted a qualification that would affirm his extensive experience and his professional evolution during his accomplished career at the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

Why Capable NZ?

“I looked at a university degree, but that was going to take three-to-five years to complete which was off-putting,” says Steve. “I also considered another polytechnic programme but, unlike Capable NZ, it didn’t have the option of completing a workplace project – and I already had one in mind.”

Steve proposed to undertake a risk-assessment project on the management and use of hazardous substances in the workplace. His RNZAF bosses agreed to pay for his qualification in full, recognising that the project would not only benefit Steve, but the organisation as well.

Learner experience

As he began to undertake in-depth research, Steve acknowledges there was an adjustment period after a long time away from the study environment.

“My facilitator really helped me get back into that mind-set,” he notes, “and then I was away. My research looked at practices in the UK, Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand, which was really interesting – and, more importantly, useful.”

Steve jokes that he found so much fascinating information throughout his project that he “could have written War and Peace,” but managed to keep his dissertation around the desired 12,000 word mark.

“With the information I uncovered, I was able to tailor a best-practice system for hazardous waste use and management based on New Zealand needs and expectations,” he says.

Professional benefits

As a result of Steve’s hard work, the RNZAF now plans to implement his suggested processes and procedures across the country.

But Steve will no longer be there to see that happen, after accepting the position of Head of Health and Safety at Auckland Transport.

“I probably wouldn’t have got this job if it weren’t for my Capable NZ qualification,” he says. “I’m definitely sitting at a higher level now.”

Steve says he thoroughly enjoyed and valued his experience at Capable NZ – so much so, he plans to support several of his staff members to undertake their own Capable NZ qualifications.

“It was a great experience – I’d recommend it to anybody,” he says.

- Steve works as the Head of Health and Safety at Auckland Transport.