A consortium of ICT companies and councils is launching an initiative to both plug the skills gap and offer Māori and Pacifica fast-track entry into the well-paid industry.
The Industry Ready Digital Natives Initiative, which aims to "elevate aotearoa's future", is led by a handful of progressive business leaders and organisations who have signed up and committed to fund a placement from their existing talent attraction programs.
The group – which includes Hamilton and Auckland councils, Microsoft, AWS, The Instillery, PwC and Spark-owned Qrious – is also laying down a challenge to New Zealand's top 200 businesses and digital teams to commit to funding at least one internship each within their organisations.
Elevating Aotearoa's Future came about through recognition of the under-representation and under-valuing of the contribution that Pacific Islanders and Māori have to offer the technology sector.
It has created an industry ready training programme coupled with guaranteed employment opportunities to address the cost, time and relevancy challenges faced by candidates and to, over time, match the technology workforce to the population it serves.
"Our commitment is to deliver the true social and economic benefits of diversity through action," the initiative's website says.
The genesis of the effort lies with former Reserve Bank digital strategy manager (CTO) Sam Allen, who said his team had been pushing out some work to take the bank into the cloud.
That project won an award and saw the organisation become the first central bank in the world to take its data analytics to the public cloud.
During that project, Allen said he got to meet some "amazing people" who shared a passion to get more people into technology.
"The hardest thing for New Zealand is we have all the opportunity and all the growth ahead of us but we don't have enough people to really do the work," said Allen, who is now a director at PwC focusing on enterprise data and cloud delivery.
Within that there was also a lack of diversity.
"Tech is the highest paid sector in New Zealand but it's not really distributed that well," Allen said.
"Outside of white males and Asian males there's not really that much diversity and that stifles creativity and ingenuity within the New Zealand tech scene."
If you change peoples' outlooks in terms of their opportunities that also creates a long-term vision for their children and changes their families and their communities, he said.
One afternoon the partner organisations gathered and shared their visions and the effort coalesced from there.
The group also became aware of some great work at the Data Consultancy out of Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology.
A course developed there was training cloud data specialists to be ready to take up real jobs and add value in just three months as an entry point to junior consultancy positions.
Crucially, the course didn't just focus on tech, but also on the softer skills needed to facilitate the delivery of transformation using technology.
There was also a realisation that there had to be real jobs there for short course graduates, Allen said, so a 12-month paid internship programme was devised to allow people to develop their careers while still paying their bills.
Graduates will, therefore, come out of the course having earned money, paid their bills and free of student loan debt.
Other resources were needed to support the training, however. Spark stepped up with an offer of laptops and internet connections. Premises to run the training are to be secured.
The initiative has already faced one major challenge, making its planned partnership with Swinburne work in a time of pandemic.
To be effective and deliver the real benefits the Swinburne content has to be delivered face to face by the university's people flying to New Zealand.
COVID restrictions have delayed the start date, and the team are eagerly awaiting travel restrictions to be lifted to get the NZ-based training underway.
For the cloud and devops streams, the participants' training opportunities will be bolstered by The Instillery's elite partner status across Hashicorp, AWS, Azure and Google to gain access to extra training content from these global providers.
Support around these will be provided through The Instillery's professional services team, initially in Auckland, Waikato and Wellington.
"For launch we are leveraging global content with a local kiwi feel," said The Instillery's CEO, Mike Jenkins.
"This is about creating opportunities for an exciting new generation of kiwi talent that is not being given an opportunity right now and our fastest growing sector," he said.
Jenkins said the initiative aimed to create a pipeline of demand and support in parallel to opening opportunities to a new generation of digital natives - "Mā te huruhuru, ka kere te manu / Adorn the bird with feathers and it will fly".