Questions arise as Govt opens two new ICT schools in Auckland and Christchurch

“The industry estimates it has a shortage of 10,000 skilled workers, with some putting the shortfall as high as 15,000."

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce has announced the hosts of the first two new Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Graduate Schools to be established in Auckland and Christchurch.

“The new ICT Graduate Schools will be a vital link between our fast-moving hi-tech industries and tertiary education to deliver more of the skilled ICT graduates that New Zealand needs,” Joyce says.

“They will provide a unique opportunity for businesses to connect with students and education providers, and help shape ICT talent and R&D.”

Despite concerns from opposition in the Government, the Auckland school will be hosted by the Universities of Auckland and Waikato with satellite locations in Hamilton and Tauranga, focused on developing industry focused post-graduate ICT students with the communication, critical thinking, business, and enterprise skills that employers need.

“The southern school will be hosted by the South Island Tertiary Alliance, which consists of the University of Canterbury, Christchurch Polytechnic and Institute of Technology, Lincoln University, Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago,” Joyce adds.

“It will have a Christchurch campus located in the Christchurch Innovation Precinct and a satellite site in Dunedin.”

According to Joyce, the South Island school will focus on key ICT areas relevant to the regional economies, including agri-tech, health technology, and communications products and services.

Going forward, a third graduate school will also be opened in Wellington with an announcement about the provider to be made later this year.

Joyce says the Government has committed $28.6 million for the development and delivery of the three schools over four years and once fully established, the schools are expected to train in excess of 350 students annually.

“The global ICT industry is expected to grow by US$1.3 trillion between 2013 and 2020,” Joyce adds.

“For New Zealand businesses to make the most of this opportunity, they need hi-tech professionals working in their businesses.”

But despite the plans, Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesperson David Cunliffe believes yhe Government’s ICT graduate schools will only train a tiny fraction of the workers the sector is crying out for.

“The industry estimates it has a shortage of 10,000 skilled workers, with some putting the shortfall as high as 15,000,” Cunliffe adds.

“The Auckland and Christchurch graduate schools announced by Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce today will only train 350 a year at most.”

According to Cunliffe, some of this shortfall is currently being made up by low-level private training courses which are targeted at mainly migrant students.

“There are also concerns a traditional degree programme is too slow and unwieldly to adapt to the fast changing needs of the high tech market,” he adds.

“What our tech sector needs is a proper skills strategy rather than this token effort that will producing a few hundred rather than the thousands of ICT professionals New Zealand needs.”

Joyce however believes the ICT Graduate Schools are a “key initiative” under the Government’s Business Growth Agenda and will provide innovative, industry focused ICT education, research and development through collaboration between tertiary providers, industry and stakeholders.

“Through this collaborative approach we will see ICT graduates with work-relevant, business-focused skills as well as more direct pathways from education into employment,” he adds.

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