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Investment critical for a digital Kiwi nation


The future of New Zealand’s economy hangs on its ability to swiftly embrace and invest in digital tech skills, NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says.

He was commenting today on the release of a major digital skills report released by the New Zealand Digital Skills Forum, which is a collaborative group of leading tech industry and government agencies working together to address digital skills shortages.

Within the report the tech sector makes 10 recommendations to help successfully transform New Zealand into a leading global digital economy, Muller says.

“Evidently, the supply of digitally skilled talent for the New Zealand economy is insufficient. Given this is a global issue too, we cannot rely on immigration to fill future skills gaps. New focus needs to be placed on developing a strong domestic pipeline of talent through our education system and other education initiatives.

“The tertiary education system requires support to better align its courses with the future demands of the sector. Using insights from the Forum’s study, tertiary education providers can be better placed to make informed decisions about current and future skill demands.

“An effective method of reviewing this information annually is required to ensure both education and immigration are informed, and that industry and government can collaborate efficiently to meet digital skills challenges.

“The Digital Skills Forum study has highlighted that not only are insufficient numbers of tertiary students studying computer sciences or information technology, but they also struggle to transition into roles following their graduation. As a nation we could do better at showcasing a variety of pathways into digital technology roles.”

The tech sector has made 10 recommendations for New Zealand’s benefit:

1. Make sure every child is exposed to digital technologies:
In the long term, we need to dramatically increase the supply of digitally skilled people in New Zealand. Therefore, the successful introduction of the digital technologies/hangarau matahiko curriculum is critical. Increased investment should be made to ensure teachers and principals are actively driving the new learning into their schools as quickly as possible.

2. Help all Kiwis to understand the importance of digital skills:
The skills issue is not about the tech sector, it is about the future of work. We recommend investment to increase the understanding of the importance of lifelong learning and digital technologies.

3. Increase the numbers studying advanced digital skills:
The number of students who study computer science or information technology at a tertiary level needs to increase. A national campaign should be designed to encourage more students into relevant tertiary study.

4. Actively encourage a more diverse group of Kiwis into digital technology:
We recommend the development of significant policy approaches and initiatives to increase women, Maori and Pasifika in digital roles. Consideration should be made to applying positive discrimination to incentivise and encourage individuals into computer sciences and information technology courses, in the same way as it is applied for other nationally critical skills, such as medicine.

5. Undertake a programme of constant digital attraction:
New Zealand should invest in building its Digital Nation brand and use ongoing digital campaigns to target and attract the best possible talent from abroad. We recommend investment into building a database of digital talent looking to come to New Zealand and a programme of constant engagement.

6. Develop and promote pathways into digital tech roles:
As there are multiple pathways into digital roles, these need to be clearly promoted. We recommend investment into updating pathway information and ongoing promotion of the various pathways into digital technology roles including ways to upskill or reskill into in demand areas.

7. Develop a platform to support internships:
It is recommended that a neutral platform is developed to provide a central location for engaging with students looking for internships or work experience. The platform should help employers understand ways to get the best return from different experience levels.

8. Develop programmes to support re-entry to work:
With less than 30 percent of the tech workforce being female, significant opportunity exists to improve gender balance and help address the skills shortage. We recommend developing programmes to help women return to the workforce and into digital roles.

9. Create upskilling programmes for those likely to be hit by automation:
The growth in demand for digital skills presents a unique opportunity in that the number and type of roles emerging is broad. The focus should be on developing skills that the market will need most, not just on filling education quotas.

10. Educate the market on importance of training and development:
Government and industry should consider co-investing in a study on the economic benefits obtained by organisations that develop their digital staff. Successful high-profile tech firms who have a policy of ongoing development should be highlighted as exemplars.

View the report

For further information contact NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller on 021 02520767 or Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188


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