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Kiwi students take first steps to IT career through Microsoft NZ

“The challenge of finding graduates with relevant work experience has become a common issue in the New Zealand IT industry, this is only going to grow if not addressed."

A total of 94 New Zealand university students took an official first step in launching their IT careers this week, as part of the 2015 intake of the Microsoft Student Accelerator summer work programme.

Microsoft Student Accelerator (MSA) is a programme for New Zealand tertiary students that focuses on helping them get ready for work in the IT industry by providing placements at leading Kiwi companies over 10 weeks during the summer holidays.

The participating companies provide an environment where the students are coached and mentored as they work on innovative, creative projects, developing apps and software for a real world IT business setting.

Over the past six months, Microsoft has trained more than 600 students in Windows App and Microsoft Cloud development, which are required for the projects.

The final 94 students who earned placements gathered last week at events in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, where they met with 33 prospective employers via speed dating-style interviews.

Microsoft matches the students in groups of three with their preferred employer candidates, based on their abilities and preferences, and the companies’ feedback from the interviews.

Success is then measured on student groups completing their project over the 10-week period enabling both parties to get real value out of the placement.

The MSA programme is voluntary for both parties, although Microsoft does encourage companies to provide an allowance to the students. Many of the students also go on to be employed by the companies where they were placed.

Nigel Parker, Director for Developer Experience at Microsoft New Zealand, says the MSA programme, now in its second year, has provided participating students with real life work experience, mentorship and deep software development training to help kick start their careers.

“The challenge of finding graduates with relevant work experience has become a common issue in the New Zealand IT industry, and with the ongoing IT skills shortage, this is only going to grow if not addressed,” he says.

“The MSA programme is helping bridge this gap by placing students into real workplace situations to build their confidence and launch their IT career, while at the same time removing barriers for companies that are keen to source motivated and skilled IT interns.

“Entering the IT world can be intimidating for students, so the MSA programme helps them prepare by getting them their first step in the door, where they can then create strong connections within the industry and foster future opportunities.”

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Datacom Director Vernon Kay says the MSA programme has been most valuable because it has enabled his company to take on fresh talent with the head start of already having first-hand experience working at Datacom.

“All the students have been mentored and guided by our best technicians, consultants and leaders, which makes them highly effective employees as soon as they begin with us," he adds.

"This is why I thoroughly recommend the Microsoft Student Accelerator programme to students and prospective employers alike."

Students who have previously completed the Student Accelerator programme include Hayden Do and Chris Duan, who went on to compete and win the Innovation category at the 2014 Microsoft Imagine Cup competition in the USA for their app, called Estimeet.

Successful projects completed during last year’s MSA programme include:

ASB Banking

The students created a flatmate app that helps flatmates work out their weekly expenses and divide them accordingly for each individual to pay through the ASB Mobile App

Datacom

The students built an app that uses location of users within buildings through WIFI routers, maps them on a 3D environment and lets people connect with them through IM

Olympic Software

The students built a Windows Phone project equivalent to their iOS and Android office worker app

NIWA

The students took the NIWA website and converted its data into a slick Windows tablet and phone app that provides weather information.

The MSA students for 2015 begin their placements at their chosen companies this month.