Griffin on Tech: Tech capability gap ‘cuts both ways’

We’ve heard a lot this year about the tech talent shortage, which is unlikely to abate anytime soon, even if we sink into recession next year.

We are also hearing a lot more about efforts to boost the participation of women, Maori and Pasifika in tech-related roles in New Zealand.

Maori for instance, represent just 4% of the tech workforce but 17% of the population. Pasifika make up just 2.8%, while women represent 27% of the workforce.

“I think the pipeline is getting worse,” said Evan Wilson, head of data and innovation at Qrious, during a recent podcast discussion with Megan Tapsell, chair of the AI Forum.

In an effort to address the situation, Qrious recently launched a $1 million data analytics internship programme for women, Māori, and Pasifika. It includes full-year internships, with participants receiving full-time work at a salary of $60,000+, on-the-job training and a job offer with Qrious on completion. Summer internships for a 10 week period are also on offer.

That’s a great initiative and we need more of this.

“If we do nothing about it, if we are not proactive, then we will end up in a world where we have really fast-growing portions of our society who are not participating in the fastest growing and most prosperous industry,” Wilson points out.

That demographic change he refers to can’t be underestimated. While 1 in 4 current school leavers are Maori, by 2040, 1 in 3 people of working age will be Maori. Yet last year, according to the Tertiary Education Commission, only 305 Maori completed an IT qualification, with a completion rate of 52%. So there’s a lot of work to be done to improve the pathways for Maori into tech-related jobs, let alone Pasifika and women.

But while an acceleration in efforts to improve access to the sector are essential, new research commissioned by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited and Spark Foundation, in conjunction with Te Matarau The Māori Tech Association, suggests businesses have work to do to serve the needs of a Maori workforce.

The Te Au Hangarau report conducted by AATEA Solutions and Korou Digital Agency in collaboration with the Pūhoro STEMM Academy set out to find out what factors influence the participation and success of Māori in the technology industry in the Auckland region. The findings are instructive for any employer of tech workers.

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Source: Te Au Hangarau

Not surprisingly, access to education and employment remains a barrier.

“Some rangatahi Māori are unable to access tertiary education, even with fee-free years and scholarship programmes. Action needs to be taken to facilitate more affordable, inclusive education pathways to tech careers,” the report points out.

That at least can and is starting to be addressed. But Te Au Hangarau points out that the industry’s “skills capability gap” cuts both ways. While it needs to upskill more Maori to enter the industry, employers need to become more capable in serving the needs of Maori employees.

“Addressing this skills gap is vital, however, it is equally important for employers to assess their cultural competency capabilities to become an organisation where rangatahi are welcomed and nurtured,” it notes.

“Workplaces where Māori feel a deep sense of belonging will lead to a greater desire to participate. Connection to other Māori – both at the same level and with Māori role models within tech – would strengthen the entry and retention of rangatahi Māori to the sector.”

It’s a very useful report and essential reading for anyone in leadership in the tech sector and making hiring decisions. The growing selection of early career development initiatives is to be welcomed. But we need businesses that are truly capable of serving the needs of under-represented groups in a sustainable way.

Source: ITP New Zealand Tech Blog

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