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NZ digital skills efforts, a picture of lost opportunity: survey

A major new national digital skills survey being released tomorrow, paints a picture of lost opportunity highlighting New Zealand is experiencing a digital skills mismatch which is impacting on the growth of the economy during difficult covid times.

Digital technology businesses say they have problems attracting and retaining people with the tech and creative skills needed to help New Zealand grow faster, especially out of the covid pandemic.

The Digital Skills Aotearoa survey says not enough Kiwis choose digital tech careers and there is often a mismatch between what the education system provides and what the tech ecosystem needs.

The report is published by the Digital Skills Forum which was established in 2015. It has brought together the leading tech industry associations and government agencies focused on digital skills including the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Digital Skills Forum member and NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says employers are not offering enough on-job training and there is a lack of participation by women, Maori and Pacific people in the New Zealand digital tech workforce.

Muller says the success of the digital technology sector is critical for New Zealand’s future. It is one of the fastest growing parts of the New Zealand economy, generating billions of dollars in exports, creating thousands of jobs and enabling the digitalisation of the rest of the economy. Underpinning all this growth and economic value are people with digital skills.

“For the first time ever, data from the survey has been aggregated across the entire digital skills pipeline, from school to tertiary education, from education to employment, from within the market and from immigration. Overall, the story the research tells is one of opportunity,” he says.

“Disappointingly, it also paints a picture of lost opportunity. When NZTech and the Digital Skills Forum undertook similar research in 2017, a series of recommendations were proposed.

“However, three years later, we find decreasing participation in technology in education and a less diverse workforce.

“We have found system wide challenges that require urgent national attention. Research shows a lack of coordinated effort, an industry reporting dramatic skills challenges driving a heavy reliance on immigration, while under investing in the development of its own workforce.

“Only 30 percent of senior secondary students took any technology subjects in 2019, representing a two percent decline year on year for the past five years. Only 1850 New Zealanders started an IT degree in 2019 whereas 3683 visas were granted that same year to help fill the 4462 new digital tech jobs created in 2019.

“The tertiary education system has had to focus on international students to cover its costs, masking the decline in domestic participation. Surprisingly, hundreds of graduates struggle to gain an internship or even an entry level job,” Muller says.

“On the positive side, the opportunity is enormous with thousands of new digital tech jobs created every year ranging from coding and data roles to creative, design and human interaction roles, there are jobs for everyone once we better integrate the industry with education and develop fast pathways into these exciting future careers.”

The research will be used by industry, the education system, MBIE and others to focus combined energy on creating solutions that help more New Zealanders to enter pathways into lucrative and exciting tech careers over the coming years.

The report will be launched 4pm tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Wellington ICT Graduate School.

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

NZTech We connect, promote and advance the New Zealand Technology ecosystem to help the tech sector and the economy grow.