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Summer of Tech: The hot intern programme for Kiwi tech students

It’s summer. Time for hanging out with family and friends, having a BBQ, and maybe hitting the pool, right?

You could do that. But all the cool kids – or at least the ones that hope to one day make enough money to afford their own pool – seem to be doing Summer of Tech (SoT) instead.

Founded in 2006, SoT is an ICT industry-led programme that connects tech companies in need of young talent with university and other tertiary students looking for experience and a way to get their proverbial foot in the door.

SoT CEO Ruth McDavitt says it’s a win-win.

“We’re industry-driven,” she says.

“The employers teach the skills that they need. They want students with the right skills.”

Image: SoT CEO Ruth McDavitt 

This year, SoT is offering 143 paid internships (paying at least $20 an hour), at organisations as small as Wellington husband and wife team Psoda, to as large as Fairfax Media, Spark Ventures, Xero, Powershop, TradeMe, and the Department of Internal Affairs. Although working mostly with Auckland and Wellington-based schools, McDavitt says students from any tertiary institution in New Zealand can take part in the programme.

“There’s plenty of talent,” McDavitt says. “Tech is moving so fast, and New Zealand needs to be on top of it.”

One of SoT’s most innovative features is its online database. Basically, prospective employers can search potential interns via an online profile, not unlike LinkedIn.

“It’s getting an understanding of the local job market,” McDavitt says of the advantages offered to students.

“Through our programme, they’re basically applying for 100 jobs at once.”

Psoda CEO Bruce Aylward seems bullish on the idea.

“Internships have been great for our business as we get access to fantastic, talented people who bring new perspectives and, in some instances, new tech, to the company,” he says.

Mohio CTO Jun Huh says that the interns the company has employed are “too talented to be classified as interns”.

“It has only been a couple of weeks since they joined us, and they are already making a big impact.”

One of the focuses for the group is addressing the under-representation of women in tech.

McDavitt says that currently, about 35% of SoT interns are women.

“We’re really good at getting women into tech,” he says.

Wholly-owned by the New Zealand Technology Training Trust, SoT is a non-profit. McDavitt says that designation makes it easy for SoT to promote one of its core tenets: “Tech is totally cool.”

Of course, she means a different “cool” than the kind we’re all seeking in January.

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