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If the numbers are any indication then the inaugural Shadow IT day being put on today across Auckland is shaping up to be a huge success.
The initiative, aimed at encouraging more young women to choose a career in technology, is the brainchild of NZTech and MIT. Over 20 technology companies have volunteered to host more than 40 female students aged 15 to 16 years. The girls will spend the day shadowing executives, programmers, marketers and others from the industry.
NZTech CEO Candace Kinser says the response has been beyond expectations and she’s excited to host two students herself for the day.
MIT’s Industry and Communication Engagement Manager, Edwina Mistry says the day will open the eyes of students to many different career options in technology.
“The biggest barrier for women to take up careers in IT is they think it is only for technical people, programmers or geeks,” she says; “that’s a part of the industry but there are many other career options too.”
One student who was involved in another programme last year to introduce young people to IT careers was so impressed with what she learned that she changed her career choice. Ms Mistry says, “The girl had imagined people sitting behind computers in a dark room and not communicating but after a few hours she realised that IT was fun and with real people.”
Another student, 17 year-old Libby Jennings from Carmel College in Whangarei, says she’s interested in being a programmer or network engineer and the Shadow IT day is an ideal opportunity to be inspired and see firsthand what the professionals do on a day to day basis.
There is a significant skills shortage in the tech sector but both Ms Kinser and Ms Mistry say there aren’t enough companies willing to take on the risk of hiring recent tech graduates. They are urging the Government to help fund small to medium sized businesses to take on graduates so that they can build experience in the sector.
“We will need to work on creating an early adoption graduate program next,” says Ms Kinser; “it’s all about building the conveyor belt of interest in the sector by young people, educating them and then making it easy for companies to get them on board.”