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Maori and Pacific youth targeted for ICT jobs

After-school cyber learning programme High Tech Youth is setting its sights on New Zealand’s tech sector, aiming to fill all currently vacant technology and ICT jobs by 2020.

High Tech Youth is one of New Zealand’s largest after-school cyber learning programmes for young people in underserved communities.

The not-for-profit organisation is bringing together over 70 schools, community groups and leaders from several of New Zealand's technology firm to an Indigenous Innovation Hui at the end of this month in Auckland.

“Technology is shattering traditional economic norms, where before people made money through an individual competitive advantage, in the new digital world it is the willingness to share and collaborate that gives you and your whanau the advantage,” explains Sam Chapman, chairperson of High Tech Youth.

“This way of thinking and doing is not unfamiliar to indigenous people,” he says.

“Technology and culture together have the potential to radically transform New Zealand's so-called underserved communities for good.”

However, Chapman says globally the ICT and technology sector has an appalling record for its lack of diversity and gender equity in its workforce.

In the United States, less than 21% are females and less than 4% are people of colour - 2% if you are African American, and it is worse in New Zealand.

Mike Usmar, the chief executive officer of High Tech Youth, says the facts are clear.

“Only 1% of Maori are studying ICT at tertiary level, yet the technology export sector is worth over seven billion dollars to our country,” he says.

“With just 2.5% of the Maori workforce employed in the ICT sector, we have to ask ourselves why? And more importantly, what would New Zealand look like socially and economically, if the thousands of young people we see turning up each day at our High Tech Youth Studios had the full backing to transform the future of this country – the struggle with housing, health, unemployment, gone,” adds Usmar.

High Tech Youth as a network recognises the goal of 60,000 ICT jobs filled is an ambitious task.

“We know our young people can equally foot it on the global cyber stage,” Usmar says.

“We are credentialing youth as young as thirteen with adult industry certifications, and just this weekend a young person from our West Auckland Studio was sponsored along with his mentor to the Sundance Next Fest Film Festival in Los Angeles in recognition of his expertise in cinematography,” he says.

The Indigenous Innovation Hui, co-sponsored by Microsoft NZ and AUT's Colab, is bringing together key speakers and leaders from across the country.

Usmar says it is designed to serve as the initial platform to ensure all young New Zealanders have the opportunity to grow New Zealand’s broadband economy, and do so equally.