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Growing concern around the lack of tertiary technology students

Technology is New Zealand’s fastest growing and second biggest export sector, however a new national survey has revealed that only a small number of Kiwi students continue from secondary to tertiary technology education.

The Digital Skills survey reveals that not enough people are choosing lucrative digital tech careers and there is often a mismatch between what the education system provides and what the tech ecosystem needs.

From 2015 to 2019, particiaption in NCEA technology standards dropped from 52,504 students to 48,024 students. Tech professions don’t always require a tertiary education, however it is the main pathway. Worryingly, only 1850 students moved into IT degrees from secondary school in 2019.

NZTech chief executive and Digital Skills forum member Graeme Muller says the decline in student participation is a cause for concern.

“The nature of the skills demanded by the market requires staff with experience and advanced skills. Consequently, immigration has been used as the primary source of new talent, fulfilling the majority of all new digital technology jobs created most years,” he says.

“With the impact of covid and closed borders dramatically reducing this source of talent, there is an increasingly urgent need for locally produced talent.”

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller

He adds that New Zealand has not invested in digital skills and innovation to nearly the same extent as high performing small-advanced economies.

“We have made little progress in addressing the mismatch in demand and supply for digital skills. The challenge has only increased in 2020 with the arrival of covid accelerating society’s digital transformation and border closures.”

Respondents to the survey have said that incentive funding and targets for domestic student graduates are critical for not only the future of New Zealand’s tech industry, but for the economy too.

Muller says a working group from the industry and each of the schools should be established to explore potential specialisation aligned with industries current and future needs.

“The growth of the tech sector contributes to regional growth and employment, with over 114,000 people now employed by tech firms in New Zealand.

“If New Zealand can encourage more students into tech, the growth in demand for digital skills will be manageable. Throughout secondary school, we must stimulate domestic students’ interest in continuing into tertiary study for roles in New Zealand’s fastest growing sector with high paying jobs.”

Review overview