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Tech21 Summit: inspiring ākonga into tech careers

By Education Gazette editors

New Zealand’s technology workforce needs more diversity and one event is aiming to help achieve that – by appealing to young Māori, Pacific and female learners and showcasing the possibilities that await them if they pursue a tech career pathway.   

Tech week

Approximately 1500 Year 7-10 students from south Auckland schools are expected to attend the Tech21 Young Innovators Summit at the Vodafone Events Centre on 24 May. 

The Tech21 Summit is a collaboration between NZTech and the Ministry of Education and aims to engage teachers, career advisors, educators, leaders, ākonga (learners) and their whānau in technology learning and career pathways.  

The event is part of Tech Week, which will see events held all around the country with a goal of inspiring the next generation into technology careers and opportunities, looking at what the future is holding and showcasing New Zealand Technology. 

Skill shortage 

For Graeme Muller, the chief executive of NZTech, which organises Tech Week, the South Auckland summit is a huge opportunity. 

“NZTech is a not-for-profit NGO, started 12 years ago as an industry body for technology. Its objective was: how do we use technology to create a more socially and economically prosperous New Zealand?   

“The common theme across all of the companies and organisations is that there are a massive number of jobs, there is a shortage of skills, and there is a real issue with lack of diversity.” 

NZTech’s recent research shows that less than three percent of the tech workforce are Pacific people, four percent are Māori, and 27 percent of the tech workforce are female.   

Range of opportunities 

Graeme says a common misconception is that digitech and technology work involves sitting at a computer all day, but this is not the case. The range of opportunities is broad, from digitech and biotech to high-tech manufacturing, space and genetics, says Graeme. 

He adds that they’re working with the Ministry of Education to look at ways to inspire students into these pathways, and one of them is this pilot event in South Auckland. 

“If this works well, we hope to be able to take a scaled-down version of it around the country,” he says. 

“From our perspective, we want to try to tell that story better. Advanced technologies are changing the world and are going to be the jobs of the future. Take Rocket Lab as an example – you can get into the space game in New Zealand and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist. 

“Not everybody is going to be a tech person,” says Graeme. “It’s about getting involved in the jobs and experiences that are going to set you up for the future with tech as the tool. There is a shortage of skills for every job in this fast-growing space at the moment.  

“At one end, there are the data scientists, mathematicians and coders; at the other end creative people who can do really good artwork, or understand how humans can interface with technology. The types of jobs cover the most creative people to the most analytical people and everything in between.” 

Inspiring speakers 

The Tech21 Summit will feature a plenary of high-profile speakers who have been chosen to show a window into what a tech career experience as a Māori or Pacific person is like.  

These include speakers such as Amber Taylor, the chief executive of ARA Journeys, a company she co-founded in 2018 that designs and creates environmental-based, mobile games that connect people to te reo and mātauranga Māori. 

“There’s a lot of research that shows that students respond if they can see themselves in a career or role,” explains Graeme.  

“What Tech21 hopefully will do is bring a bunch of successful young entrepreneurs and tech people who are not too far removed from the audience and have them talk about what they have achieved – like building a company that has attracted millions of dollars of investment, doing really cool things and changing things for people.”   


Students at the Tech21 Summit will have opportunities to interact with state-of-the-art technology and imagine future careers in New Zealand’s fastest growing, highest paid sector. 

Te Papa’s Raranga Matihiko team from the Auckland Art Gallery will be inspiring students with tech at the Imagine Zone at Tech21, says Tara Fagan, project director of Raranga Matihiko/Weaving Digital Futures. 

“Students will have the opportunity to design 3D waka, experience VR, programme robots and create digital stories. All tools are designed to help them create using technology and inspire them to see tech careers as part of their futures. 

“In addition, the team will have a panel discussion looking at how the culture and heritage sector use tech in their daily work, as well as how our facilitators use tech as part of their bespoke programmes with students,” explains Tara. 

“In the Imagine Zone, they can go and talk to people working for different companies and talk to some of the people working in tech, actively engage in state-of-the-art technology, do something exciting and imagine their future,” adds Graeme.  

Equity and diversity important 

Graeme says inspiring Māori, Pacific and young women into the tech sector is important for equity and diversity, as well as to address the skill shortage. 

“It will become a positive spiral – if we can start to get a few more kids interested and a few more starting businesses. They’ll employ more kids and there will be new opportunities. It’s a well-paid, globally competitive sector. New Zealand has a good reputation so there’s a bunch of good shoulders to stand on’” he says. 

“Tech is the tool to enable you to do cool things. Not everybody is going to be a tech person. If I think of a solution to a problem and get somebody to write some code for me, I don’t need to be a coder, I just need to be able to understand the thinking of how to get a computer to do something for me.”  

tech week

Tech21 Summit at a glance 

Tech21 will focus on

  • Why is digital tech so important? 
  • What will our future be like? 
  • How to know if a tech career is right for you. 
  • What is a tech career really like? 
  • What career pathways are available? 

The Tech21 Summit features speaker sessions led by notable  leaders in Aotearoa’s tech scene. They include Animation Research managing director Sir Ian Taylor, KidsCoin co-founder Brittany Teei, Girlboss Alexia Hilbertidou and Weta Digital’s Anne Taunga.  

Kura and schools can tune into the Summit and watch the speaker sessions for free on TechweekTV.

Register to receive the streaming link closer to the time. 

 For more information about the Tech21 Summit and other Tech Week 2021 events, go to

Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

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