Future tech talent in the hands of mums

Future tech talent in the hands of mums

Media Design School and Mindlab founder Frances Valintine knows a thing or two about educating the next generation of digital talent, and she reckons parents and teachers have a big part to play in breaking down the barriers. That's because when kids reach high school, the skills they'll contribute to the economy are usually cemented, she says.

"We have a problem now because teachers are only doing what they were trained to do, and parents become the next major obstacle," Valintine told a Women in Innovation Summit in Auckland recently. "The major problem is actually mums. The one big barrier is mothers saying [technology is] not for my daughter or my son.

"The majority of children under 10 who come here [to the Mindlab], almost 80 percent are boys. They've already determined what's an appropriate skillset for the future." 

The New Zealand education system needs an overhaul to effectively teach digital skills, says Valintine. Mind Lab was set up to change the mindset that ICT involves specialist skill and to produce digital natives, she says.

"I constantly hear teachers talk about he ICT classroom and people who bring their own device in homes and schools and all they're doing is word processing. Or it's after hours when one passionate teacher is doing a robotics class. We've got a real dilemma."

With rapid and exponential technology change, the audience at the summit needed to talk to their networks to "change the communication paradigm", Valintine said.

"Every single person will require technology for communication or their core job. You'd be surprised how many schools, including the most prestigious, don't have technology. They're telling students at 16 years old there's nothing wrong with pen and paper."

Valintine sees Kiwi children aged between 10 and 16 as a lost generation because of a void in exposure to specialist technology knowledge and a lack of effort across school subjects to address digital. She says cost will be the big driver in transforming global digital education.

"Every sector that transformed - banking, travel, music - one by one these industries got totally disrupted. Yet we've not had that conversation with education. We're pretty much back where we were in 1980."

The "movers and shakers" with the power to transform education are big brands like Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook, says Valintine. That will involve a shift away from university qualifications as the requisite for a number of role types, with the best professors getting paid big dollars to use their skills via online platforms and universities bringing as much as 80 percent of their content to the web.

"Our population is growing exponentially and we need to educate the masses in the most affordable way. Bricks and mortar doesn't make sense."