Evaluating the mechanical engineering gateway

Competenz develops mechanical engineering unit standards for secondary schools. We take a look at how many secondary school students are completing these standards and whether they are more likely to go on to training with Competenz than other students.

How many students are taking engineering standards?

The chart below shows the number of the number of school leavers each year who have completed an engineering standard developed by Competenz. The proportion of students taking one of these unit standards while at school has been increasing from just over 4% of school leavers in 2009 to 6% in 2016. The proportion of boys taking the standards is much higher than that for girls, however the proportion of girls more than doubled between 2009 and 2016.


School leaver data is sourced from Ministry of Education data in the IDI. Foreign fee-paying students and exchange students have been excluded. Students are tagged as having completed an engineering standard if they have ever completed one during their time at school. Those who do not achieve a standard are not included. The percentage of school leavers who completed an engineering standard includes those who completed Level 1 or Level 2 standards.

How many gateway alumni go on to ITO training?

Many students who complete gateway engineering standards go on to some form of ITO training. By three years after completing their last electrotechnology standard, over 25% of alumni have either completed ITO training or are currently enrolled. Ten years after their last standard, about 37% of them have completed ITO training.


The gateway alumni included here refer to anyone who successfully completed an engineering standard at school since 2002. Each year after completing their last engineering standard, they are classified as currently in ITO training, completed ITO training, ITO training incomplete or no ITO training. This training is with any ITO.

ITO training completion is defined as being recorded as successfully completing and/or receiving a qualification. Incomplete training is defined as having no completion recorded, and either an end date recorded in a previous year or the last start date being recorded over three years ago with no end date.

Effect on Competenz enrolment

To investigate the effect of completing gateway unit standards on school leavers’ choices further, we compare with school leavers who did not complete these standards. We then calculate the fraction among each group that goes into training with each ITO. In the chart below, we can see that gateway alumni are disproportionately likely to participate in Competenz training, when compared to other trade ITOs.

We have filtered by gender since men are both more likely to choose trade ITOs, and more likely to take engineering standards, so a comparison using both genders would be misleading.


School leaver data is sourced from Ministry of Education data in the IDI. Foreign fee-paying students and exchange students have been excluded. The first ITO that a school leaver enrols with after leaving is used for classification. Both school leaver and ITO data are for the years 2009 to 2016 inclusive.

Controlling for other factors

From the previous chart, it is unclear as to whether gateway standards are:

  • Attractive to students that would have gone on to study with Competenz anyway
  • Encouraging students that would have gone to other ITOs to instead go to Competenz
  • Encouraging students that would have pursued study or career options outside of ITO training to instead go to Competenz.

We performed a regression analysis to control for the characteristics of each student, including school grades, or where parental employment was in the manufacturing sector. In the following table we present the effect that each factor has on the likelihood of choosing Competenz among those who enrolled with any ITO in the five years after leaving school.

Even after controlling for these factors, it appears that the engineering gateway standards are having a significant effect in encouraging students into training and careers in the engineering sector.

Factor Effect on choosing Competenz vs other ITOs
Completing a Level 2 engineering standard 1.7x as likely
Gender Men 2x as likely
Father in electrotechnology sector 1.5x as likely

There were also regional differences in how likely students were to choose to enrol with Competenz.


Students who complete engineering unit standards developed by Competenz are more likely than others to go on to ITO training, in particular with Competenz itself. The number of girls taking these standards is very low but rising quickly. The programme appears to be effective at encouraging students into apprenticeships so continuing to attract more girls may be good way of attracting more women to the trades.


Evaluating BCATS

Analyse the effectiveness of BCATS in guiding students towards trades training


Evaluating the electrotechnology gateway

Analyse the effectiveness of electrotechnology unit standards in guiding students toward training