The New Zealand Computer Society is launching a community programme in the new year in which IT professionals will visit secondary schools and evangelise about careers in technology.
NZCS CEO Paul Matthews says that despite not having the $100,000 funding required to pay for the programme, it has decided to go ahead after determining a need in the community.
“It comes up every time there is a discussion about skills, we need something like this in New Zealand,” he says. “We need to be getting into the schools and talking about IT and technology and were it can take you.”
He says an email sent out to schools to gauge interest in the programme attracted around 400 replies from schools around the country.
NZCS piloted the ICT-Connect school outreach programme a couple of years ago, but although the feedback was positive, it needed to be properly funded. “The big lesson from the pilot was that you need to do it properly, you can’t just throw a whole bunch of volunteers together and ask them to put it together.”
Matthews says organisations and businesses have expressed an interest in becoming sponsors of the programme, but in the meantime the NZCS will pay for a full time facilitator, the information packs and other programme-related expenses. Ben Smith, co-founder of the Young IT Professionals Group in Auckland has been employed to run the programme.
NZCS will put the call out to its members early in the New Year and interested IT professionals will take part in a short training process. Matthews says it’s likely the programme will include four visits to a school, with each visit being from someone employed in different area of the IT profession – for example, a software developer one week, a business analyst the next – in order to give the students a wide understanding as to what a career in technology entails.
“The fundamental problem we have when we go into schools is they don’t know about IT. We ask ‘what will you be doing if you want a career in IT’ and more than half the students don’t know,” Matthews says.
Also in the new year NZCS members will be voting on a name change, as Matthews says the organisation may have outgrown the moniker ‘Computer Society’.
He says NZCS has undergone a significant structural and cultural change in the past few years and its name should reflect this.
“The organisation has got a long history and we’re very proud of that history but the time’s come when we need to bring the name up to a modern time.”
The suggested new name is Institute of IT Professionals.
Matthews says there are around 10,000 professionals and students involved in the organisation, and that two-thirds of its members joined in the past four years.