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Diversity critical for NZ tech sector’s future

Graeme Muller – CEO, NZTech

Technology is now the country’s second biggest exporter and is the fastest growing sector. Covid has accelerated the global demand for New Zealand tech which has driven the growth of Kiwi tech exports, NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says.

The growth is creating many more high-paying jobs for Kiwis. At the same time, covid has also increased the demand for digital skills for most other sectors as businesses rapidly became more digital.

This is a global challenge with the demand for digital skills outpacing the supply in all countries. Yet here in New Zealand the supply shortage is exacerbated by a lack of diversity, he says. 

“The tech sector has an interesting diversity challenge. In some ways it is incredibly diverse with most tech firms or tech teams in organisations resembling the United Nations.

“For the past 10 years, with not enough graduates coming through the New Zealand education system companies have relied on immigration, bringing in around 3500 to 4500 highly skilled IT professionals from all over the world. However, only a few thousand Kiwis graduate each year and very few of those are what you would call diverse. 

“To make matters worse, Kiwis haven’t aspired to tech careers and the data is disturbing. NZTech worked with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to analyse the digital skills pipeline just before covid.

“The results published in January 2021 showed that only four percent of tech workers are Māori, 2.8 percent Pasifika and 27 percent female. No data was available for neuro-diversity. 

“The research showed that the challenge starts at a young age, with only 0.5 percent of 12 year olds considering any sort of tech career, ranking tech jobs about number 45 on the list of jobs Kiwi kids are aspiring to, behind flipping burgers and making handbags.

“At high school age the number of students taking subjects that would pathway into tech careers has been declining at around one percent compound annual growth rate over the past five years. In 2019, only 1850 students left high school to start an IT degree. By this stage 24 percent are female, nine percent Māori and six percent Pasifika. 

“There are many reasons why we all need to work on addressing this. For a start, with global shortages of people with digital skills it is crazy to leave half of the potential workforce sitting in the benches. Shortages are driving up costs, decreasing productivity improvements and limiting economic growth.” 

New Zealand’s tech sector contributes more than eight percent to GDP and every four percent in tech growth productivity contributes 2.7 percent to the country’s GDP.

Its annual exports globally are worth $8.6 billion globally and they grew 10.8 percent between 2019 and 2020.

The average annual tech salary is $100,000 and New Zealand’s top 200 tech exporters employ 57,262 people globally.

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.