Connecting schools to the ICT industry



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The ICT industry is finding great results connecting with schools through its in-school outreach programme, TechHub.

175461268-COVER.jpgTechnology is increasingly underpinning society and business across all industries as more people come to grips with the digital revolution that has changed the way we live and do business.

But this modern digital revolution hasn’t come without challenge. By far the most difficult aspect for the IT industry currently is a large and ongoing “skill shortage”, or shortage of people with the right skills to harness and exploit technology.

Over the last three or so years a number of separate but connected initiatives have been put in place across New Zealand to deal with this shortage at a systemic level – primarily designed to help build the capabilities of teachers and capture the hearts and minds of students in schools, and these are starting to yield real results for New Zealand.

There are many examples worthy of mention. An organisation called Gather Workshops has been running comprehensive workshops to help teachers come up to speed on technology. Google have funded a series of “Computer Science for High School” (CS4HS) workshop-style conferences for teachers. Code Club Aotearoa has been building up a network of coding clubs in schools across the country. Many tertiary institutions have launched projects and the Institute of IT Professionals NZ (IITP) has taken a sector-leading role delivering the industry’s in-school outreach programme TechHub.

TechHub is funded by over 40 tech companies and supported by over 150 presenters across New Zealand. It was kicked off initially as a pilot of what is now the broader TechHub in Schools programme.  At the time, the programme was called ICT-Connect and consisted of a series of four presentations delivered to thousands of Year 10 school students designed to inspire and motivate them to consider a career in IT.

TechHub was and is all about changing perceptions, and is designed to change the incorrect view amongst many students who identify IT as just being for “geeks or nerds”, that perception being one of the major causes of a decline in the uptake of IT related study programmes at a tertiary level around the country.

Since its launch in 2012, the programme has engaged with over 100,000 Year 9-13 students all around the country.  While the success of the programme is difficult to quantify, the feedback received from students, parents, and teachers make it clear that this programme is having the desired effect.  Many schools have reported an increase in student numbers taking Digital Technology subjects and the Insitute is noticing a change in students perceptions of a career in Technology.

Where previously many students appeared to hold the perception of IT roles being centred around just coding and an uninteresting job with little opportunities, there’s now a realisation that there are huge opportunities within the industry for non technical roles, for travel, great income opportunities, flexible working hours, interesting projects and the oppportunity of being involved in making a difference in many aspects of every day life. Students are genuinely excited by what effect they can have on the future.

These days TechHub also includes a range of career expos, a CREST programming challenge piloted in 2015, and a soon to be released central portal for IT outreach programmes that will provide students, parents, and teachers with resources and information relating to roles in the IT industry and educational pathways to get there.

The combination of all of this is the emergence of genuine change in both teacher confidence and competence teaching the subject, and student engagement and interest. And with an industry crying out for talent, and a wealth of opportunities in an increasingly digital world, this change can’t happen soon enough.

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