After completing Mechanical Engineering qualifications in his home country of India, Prasannan Thilakan wanted to study Production Management while also gaining work experience overseas.
Prasannan was looking at institutions in New Zealand that offered a Graduate Diploma in Operations and Production Management. UCOL stood out due to its practical learning, the smaller classes, and Palmerston North’s relatively low cost of living.
“I get a lot of students from India who ask me what UCOL is like, and one of the key things I say to them is UCOL provides practical, hands-on learning. You learn skills that help you in the real world.”
Before coming to New Zealand, Prasannan emailed over 30 companies based in Palmerston North and surrounding areas, offering to do paid or unpaid work. Prasannan’s efforts landed him an internship with interior joinery company Hansens for the first semester, as well as a part-time production operator role at farming hardware manufacturer Kiwitech International.
“When I talk to other international students looking to come to UCOL, I tell them to do their research and find an internship. If possible, don’t only look for part-time work that pays well, but look for internships as they provide great opportunities after you finish your course.”
“Through interning, I learnt how to fit in with New Zealand office culture, how to appeal to people here, and how to communicate effectively.”
He says his lecturers were very helpful, especially when it came to in overcoming communication difficulties.
“The lecturers were very good at explaining things, keeping it basic. When I first got here, I had a bit of trouble understanding the New Zealand accent, but the lecturers were able to explain things in ways I could understand.”
“There are also Learning Advisors on campus who can help with your assignments, which makes it easier for students coming from overseas.”
Once he finished his course, Prasannan was made a full-time production engineer at Kiwitech International.
Six months down the track, he wanted to move on to a bigger company and was skilled enough to get a technical job at the Proliant Biologicals plant in Feilding.
“I am really enjoying it. It’s a big company, but it is quite new to the region, so there are lots of opportunities for me to grow.”
He credits the Graduate Diploma in Operations and Production Management course for helping him get the job, particularly preparing him for the paperwork aspect of it.
“It was always my goal to come over here and get a job so I could get some international work experience. Even if I just went back to India, I would have an international qualification which would make me stand out. My English has also improved from being around English speakers all of the time.”
Prasannan recommends that international students wanting to work in New Zealand have their overseas qualifications assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to see how they align with the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.
“Having my engineering qualifications from India assessed by NZQA means they are valued over here. Employers can see what they are in terms of NZQA.”
Proliant Biologicals is an American biofirm that produces about half of the world's bovine serum albumin (BSA), which is used in pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and medical research. The Feilding plant in New Zealand was opened in February 2016 and has the capacity to process 1000 - 1500 tonnes of blood plasma with the ability to expand up to 3000 tonnes a year.