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Flying high on a new career journey

  • Luke Emerson

Luke Emerson had worked in the airline industry for 12 years when COVID-19 first struck.  

He started his flying career with Jetstar Australia and then moved home to New Zealand three years ago where he switched to flying domestic and international routes with Air New Zealand.  He was one of several hundred pilots made redundant earlier this year when the airline had to make dramatic cuts to its domestic and international flight schedules due to the effects of COVID-19. 

Not one to sit still, Luke’s now building a career in Construction and Architecture, having enrolled in the New Zealand Diploma in Architectural Technology with Unitec – his interest sparked after he and his wife had renovated their Mt Eden home earlier in the year.  

He was keen to find out more about the construction, compliance and design process so he could do work on future projects himself and turn it into a possible career. Luke is studying under the Government’s Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF) and started at Unitec’s Mt Albert campus in July, joining a Semester 2 cohort of which nearly half are new to the industry, as well as looking for a new career direction. 

Doing the two-year diploma course also gives 36-year-old Luke the option to transition easily to a Bachelor of Architectural Studies or Bachelor of Construction as an add-on, both offered at Unitec. Although he’s not sure what the future holds for him, Luke says it’s great to have the opportunity to learn new vocational skills that he can put to practical use.  He’s just submitted his first drawing project for design technology and is learning to design and produce construction documentation for both residential and commercial buildings, working alongside architects and construction specialists. 

“Architectural technology is much more than the design elements - it’s also the liaison with Councils around planning consent and other compliance,” said Luke.  “It’s much more involved than you’d think.”

Juggling multiple projects is nothing new to Luke. After finishing school, Luke started a law degree at University. However, after taking an introductory flying lesson which was a birthday present when he turned 18, he decided to follow his passion and started Flight Training School in 2003. He fell in love with flying and worked towards becoming a commercial pilot as quickly as he could. He spent all his spare time flying and working weekends at Ardmore Flying School to get his flying hours up.

So it’s not surprise that he’s also doing a Search Engine Optimisation course at Unitec’s School of Applied Business, a short course developed and co-delivered with Pure SEO.  With his sister Jessie, Luke runs online delivery business The Baby Bag, delivering nappies, wipes, formula and food to new parents all over the country.  He says the skills he’s learning on his SEO course, including keyword research, Google analytics and search engine strategy, are all skills he can apply to his own business and give him the opportunity to innovate and expand his thinking. 

“Luke’s a great example of the cross-Unitec solution where we can provide our students with a range of opportunities to upskill, fitting in their studies around their work and business commitments,” said Vivienne Merito, director of marketing and communications at Unitec. “The skills that Luke is learning are providing him with the perfect antidote to the current climate, addressing the need to innovate and providing expanded employment opportunities,” she said. 

Equally important for career switchers like Luke, Unitec’s strong industry relationships provide employment opportunities for its students and graduates.  The practical application of knowledge is invaluable in helping students kick-start their careers, with employers finding them work-ready and keen to learn.  Unitec partners with Jasmax, one of New Zealand’s leading architecture and design practices.on an internship work placement scheme.  Principal Architect Nick Moyes says:

“We’ve found the graduates from Unitec are inquisitive, keen, and have well developed design skills.”


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If you want a career as an Architectural Technologist or Technician, you can study with us at Unitec.  The Level 6 New Zealand Diploma in Architectural Technology offers full-time and part-time study options.  It provides great preparation and easy transition into further Level 7 study in the Bachelor of Construction and the Bachelor of Architectural Studies and cross-crediting opportunities are available. We also offer a wide range of short courses providing practical training for the key components to successful digital marketing at our School of Applied Business. Courses  include Social Media Marketing, Google Certified, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation.  See here for more details.