New Zealand is arguably the most beautiful land in the world – and absolutely the most challenging canvas for a talented engineer. With volcanoes, earthquakes, and punishing terrain, every project needs everything you’ve got.
Opus International Consultants is New Zealand’s largest and fastest-growing engineering consultancy. They are aggressively hiring both engineers and project managers (particularly those with seismic experience) to continue to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
We interviewed Jayne Inglis, Opus’ Senior HR Advisor and National Recruitment Coordinator, to discuss both their hiring needs and what it’s like to work in New Zealand.
All the average North American knows about New Zealand is that you’re crazy about rugby. What makes New Zealand so amazing?
“New Zealand is known for scenic landscapes – many people have seen postcards of our beautiful mountains, lakes, and beaches. Unbelievably these scenes can actually be found in each town and city within New Zealand. We are very lucky that no matter where you live you are a short drive from ski fields, rivers, walking tracks, mountain bike tracks, etc.
And we truly do live to the rule of having work/life balance. We do work hard, but we also play hard. Some of us even get to go home for lunch!
Our offices at Opus are very sociable and have many events organized for staff and their families, this including various sports teams and corporate challenges.”
Why should an engineer consider working for Opus, particularly?
“At Opus once you come on board you are part of the ‘Opus Family.’ We have a very inclusive culture where employees are involved from the bottom up. Employees at every level will have the chance to work on a project from conception through to completion.
Thanks to our reputation, we are working on some of the largest and most exciting projects in New Zealand, to include the first two anchor projects that have been released for the rebuilding of Christchurch.
People are our asset here at Opus, which is why we invest time and money into their career development and professional registration.”
- More on Why Opus
How many engineers do you hope to hire this year? And where?
“LOTS! Across New Zealand but mainly in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch – but also in our smaller regional offices.”
What engineering disciplines, specifically, are you recruiting?
This includes Structural, Geotechnical & Environmental Engineers from the Intermediate to Senior/Principal levels, and also (in some areas) team leader roles.
Structural Engineers with Seismic/Earthquake experience are our critical need currently.
We’re also on the lookout for experienced Project Managers – from Senior Project Managers to Project Managers and Assistant Project Managers. These positions are based in either Civil Engineering or our Property teams. Previous project management experience in a similar consultancy environment is preferred.”
Can Americans and Canadians apply for jobs at Opus in New Zealand?
“Yes, we definitely accept Engineers from both the US and Canada.
Their qualifications (meaning PE in the U.S. or PEng in Canada) are equivalent to those in New Zealand. If Engineers are chartered with a professional body that is a bonus, and something that holds them in high regard. But once in New Zealand they can also become a Chartered Professional Engineer with IPENZ.”
What is the immigration process like for foreign engineers?
“If engineers are successful in gaining employment with Opus we will help them with their relocation costs by giving them a relocation allowance, and also help them with Immigration. (Opus is an accredited employer with New Zealand Immigration, which makes the process easier.)
We are recruiting for Engineers to relocate permanently or for at least 2 years to work in NZ.”
- More on Relocating to New Zealand
Can you describe the application process and interview?
“The best asset a candidate has is their cover letter; this is where we get our initial feel for the candidate on a personal level. Here they need to explain to us why their skills meet our needs. It is also good to read (in conjunction with their CV) the skills and projects they’ve worked on as this shows us how it may relate to the position they are applying for.
If candidates are based overseas we will organize to have interviews with them over Skype. In an interview we look for experience and skills/project experience and whether we think they are a culture fit to Opus. (We like people who are passionate about what they do.)
Normally the interviews involve the Manager, someone from Human Resources and will often include a follow up with others from the team.
And once successfully through the interview we will ask for contact details of references (generally, we contact two people that the individual has worked closely with). We will also put the engineer in touch with others who have relocated from overseas to Opus in New Zealand, so they can ask questions about relocating, visas, what it’s like working in New Zealand, etc.”
What projects can a Geotechnical or Structural Engineer at Opus expect to work on?
Alex Laird, a structural engineer in Christchurch, originally from the UK:
“I have been involved with the assessment of a lot of historic structures around New Zealand following the earthquakes. My roles have been varied from carrying out rapid response assessments to more detailed and complex analysis of existing buildings. I have specialized in un-reinforced masonry buildings, and I am currently developing seismic strengthening solutions to preserve many historic structures around New Zealand.”
Christopher Guertin, a Canadian Geotechnical Engineer in Dunedin:
“With New Zealand, being a country with ‘young geology’ and on the seismic ‘Ring of Fire,’ there is an amazing amount of fascinating projects. Earthquakes and active volcanoes are part of engineering life here.
I have been involved with the most difficult soils in the world. Some types of challenges include harbor reclamation, geotechnical foundation design, shallow and deep foundations, bridge abutments, slope stability, landslide assessment, retaining structures, embankment design, finite element analysis, seismic engineering (liquefaction & lateral spreading), coastal and river engineering.
I have worked alongside other talented civil engineers; water, bridge, transportation, and structures, in a multi-disciplinary consulting firm with offices in four other countries. The work is challenging and rewarding with a sense of accomplishment.”
“Our projects can be categorized into two categories: assessment of existing structures and design of new structures. The former is almost a combination of detective work and capacity calculations. In these projects the engineer uses and develops their experience in construction practices, understanding how various structures behave, and applying knowledge about materials amongst other things to attempt to come to the most accurate idea of the building being considered will react to loadings such as earthquake and wind.
This understanding is invaluable when it comes to doing design work as it provides the engineer with an insight to what works and what doesn’t.”
What is the ‘day in the life’ of an engineer at Opus like?
Alex Laird, structural engineer in Christchurch, originally from the UK:
“I work in a very dynamic team of structural engineers. We have established a good balance between work and life outside of work. My team provides good training and excellent support, and it is always a pleasure to come into work. My role, in particular, has seen me carry out a lot of site investigations … I am typically out onsite once a week.”
Christopher Guertin, a Canadian Geotechnical Engineer in Dunedin:
“A day in the life involves considerable time in the field, but mainly it is office design work. Working alongside and collaborating with other civil engineers and architects to bring our projects to completion.”
Toby Tscherry, a Graduate Structural Engineer in Christchurch, New Zealand:
“Structural engineers will spend a majority of their time in the office doing number crunching, meeting with clients and colleagues to progress projects, but there are multiple occasions where they will need to go onsite. Such situations will include assessment inspections to gather further information about a building; ongoing site visits to assess the progress of a construction job such as a newly designed building, or strengthening works on an existing building.
A new engineer will very quickly get to know other people in their team as well as people from the wider office. Workshops and technical talks can be expected in a structural setting, particularly where senior or fellow team members share their experience on a range of topics with a focus on technical knowledge.
Catching up with your mentor, having morning tea with your team, playing touch rugby or going for a run at lunchtime, or taking part in the social club are often a good break from the project work and a great way to develop relationships with others around you.”
For a list of Career Opportunities and more information on Opus:
- Opus Careers (New Zealand)
- Opus Careers (Full List, all countries)
- About Opus International Consultants Ltd
(Image credit: Trey Ratcliff on Flickr)