High Tech Youth, one of New Zealand's largest after-school cyber learning programs for young people in underserved communities, has set its sights on filling all currently vacant technology and ICT jobs by 2020.
The not-for-profit organisation is bringing together over 70 schools, community groups and leaders from New Zealand's top technology companies 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,” says Sam Chapman, Chairperson, High Tech Youth.
“This way of thinking and doing is not unfamiliar to indigenous people. Technology and culture together have the potential to radically transform New Zealand's so-called underserved communities for good.”
However, Chapman says that 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, for example, less than 21 percent are females and less than four percent are people of colour - two percent if you are African American, and it is actually worse in New Zealand.
“The facts are clear, only one percent of Maori are studying ICT at tertiary level, yet the technology export sector is worth over seven billion dollars to our country,” adds Mike Usmar, CEO, High Tech Youth.
“With just 2.5 percent 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 Studio's had the full backing to transform the future of this country - the struggle with housing, health, unemployment, gone.”
Usmar says 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,” he adds.
“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.”
Usmar says the Indigenous Innovation Hui is bringing together key speakers and leaders from across the country, and will serve as the initial platform to ensure all young New Zealanders have the opportunity to grow this countries broadband economy, and do so equally.