Work-ready graduates with practical skills and theoretical knowledge in engineering is essential. Traditionally, potential employees arrive with either theoretical knowledge from University study, or with practical skills learnt ‘on the job’. Yet employers need personnel with theoretical and practical competencies from the outset to undertake project work. To address this, the Tertiary Education Commission initiated a pilot study of Degree Apprenticeships, aimed at investigating how a qualification comprising a nexus of practical and theoretical work could be integrated into the students’ work environment. A number of conditions needed consideration. Only if it was employer-led, endorsed by them and addressed their requirements could the innovation be successful. But given the multiple demands on employer time; different constraints according to the nature of their enterprise; urban-rural location, political and financial complexities; coordinating the innovation could be challenging. This was a four month study with a limited budget. A university-polytechnic team collaborated to facilitate the process. Engineering staff in the Polytechnic sector were invited to provide additional input and contributed pivotal knowledge of tertiary qualification standards to underpin the innovation. The presentation reports the collaborative and facilitative process undertaken. Research interviews were conducted with a small range of employers in purposively sampled urban, regional and rural locations in the North Island. Analysis of the interview data informed the initial draft standard, to which participants were invited to critically discuss and subsequently refine at two collaborative workshops. Balancing academic process and deadlines with the need to be responsive to employer realities created dilemmas, along with the need to manage power differentials in knowledge, experience and political influence. Employer-led learning partnerships are are seen as best practice in developing apprenticeship qualifications, providing there is a spirit of mutual respect, inter-dependence and collaboration across employer, student and tertiary providers.