Local and global technology companies are collaborating to provide tamariki from low decile intermediate schools with STEM skills training.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), Code Avengers, Education Perfect, Intel, and Lancom Technology are behind the initiative, dubbed Indigitech, which aims to provide year seven and eight students, particularly those from Māori and Pacific Island communities, with free digital access to "STEM" learning in the classroom.
The science, technology, engineering and maths-focused program, which was piloted over six months at two intermediates, also provides students with the tools and expertise needed to learn coding.
Indigitech officially launched today after onboarding more than 5700 students and 270 teachers from 33 low decile schools across Auckland, Hamilton, Hastings, Mangakino, Northland, and Rotorua.
The 2021 Digital Skills Aotearoa: Digital Skills for our Digital Future report, commissioned by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) with NZTech, highlighted the challenge by showing New Zealand needed up to 5000 new digital technology professionals each year.
However, only four per cent of Māori and 2.8 per cent of Pasifika communities were employed in digital technology roles.
Debbie Clarke, regional manager of Education Perfect NZ, said the goal was to provide free STEM learning opportunities for students by removing the cost barrier for low decile schools.
“Indigitech is an exciting new initiative that will drive greater awareness and understanding of technology within Māori and Pasifika communities,” Clarke said.
“Students within these communities lack consistent access to high-quality education and learning opportunities within technology, which can lead to low participation."
Earlier this year, AWS commissioned the "New Zealand Digital Skills Study: The Economic Benefits of a Tech-Savvy Workforce". This found that advanced digital workers in Aotearoa contributed an estimated $7.3 billion to gross domestic product.
This was attributed to the 19 per cent higher salaries these workers earned compared to those with similar education who do not use digital skills at work.
“Technology is rapidly evolving and is driving digital transformation, innovation and growth across Aotearoa, New Zealand, which in turn creates a demand for a more digitally skilled workforce,” said Tiffany Bloomquist, commercial sector country director, AWS New Zealand.
By collaborating with industry, it was hoped initiatives like Indigitech would provide equitable access to current and emerging technologies and digital resources, while also addressing the digital technologies skills gap in industry, Blomquist said.
Sir Douglas Bader Intermediate was one South Auckland school with mainly Māori or Pasifika students and limited access to digital learning resources.
“Indigitech has changed that and is giving students new digital learning opportunities, and the tools and knowledge to improve their digital competency and understanding of technology," said deputy principal Annabelle Bullock.
Education Perfect engaged students through interactive learning experiences and personalised feedback
across a range of curriculum areas, including Te Reo Māori, while Code Avengers offered a comprehensive yet culturally responsive coding curriculum, fostering hands-on practice and immediate feedback.
Toni Southon, chief financial officer and human resources lead at Lancom Technology said: "We are excited and humbled to be part of the Indigitech programme, bringing highly relevant, quality education and learning opportunities to students who may otherwise never have considered a future career in technology due to their own background or current circumstances."
The program has three key components, reaching schools, teachers, and students.
Participating schools gain free access to the digital Education Perfect (EP) curriculum including English, math, science, Te Reo Māori, and Te Ao Māori topics, as well free access to the Code Avengers learning platform.
Participating teachers gain free access to a micro-credentials professional learning program that provides guidance on how to engage students using digital technology and how to build Education Perfect into their classroom lessons.
Participating students gain access to Education Perfect and Code Avengers’ program within their normal school curriculum plus access to additional activities to inspire students around future careers in technology like AWS Deep Racer.
Indigitech will run for the rest of the year, with the next intake of schools beginning in October 2023. The goal is to expand the program further in 2024.
In March, AWS also partnered with Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology to help Kiwi workers acquire advanced cloud skills.
In 2021, the company partnered with the likes of Datacom, Nextgen Group, Spark, CCL and Leaven to get new recruits into the tech industry as part of AWS's re/Start programme.