Incubating High-tech Talent in New Zealand

This post is part of a series spotlighting Asia Pacific nonprofit organisations that have incorporated a thorough understanding of technology and education into their learning programmes for youth. These organisations attended Microsoft’s Tech4Good Summit (12-13 February 2014) in Singapore.

In 2012, New Zealand’s high-tech industry contributed more than US$2 billion in exports, and is seen as a promising drive behind the nation’s economic growth. Despite this and having a population of young people ranked among the most tech savvy in the world, Kiwi employers are still struggling to fill positions in the IT sector, attributing this to inadequate skills among candidates.

 Participants with their tools at one of the High Tech Youth Studios

It is for such opportunities that learning and development nonprofit organisation (NPO) High Tech Youth Network implements skills training for underserved young people in the Oceania region. Their main programmes, the Studio and the Academy, provide training in 3D engineering, animation, robotics and video game development.

At the six High Tech Youth Studios across New Zealand, young people, ranging from age eight to 25, work closely with volunteer industry mentors, using state-of-the-art facilities that are kitted out with 3D printers, a music recording studio and even a green screen area and film editing studio. Here, participants can also utilise professional software, such as Microsoft Kodu, Adobe Creative Suite and Sony Vegas to learn and create.

The High Tech Youth Academy, formally launched by Prime Minister John Key and Managing Director of Microsoft New Zealand Paul Muckleston, will open its doors to students aged 17 to 24 years old in March 2014 to steer them towards different pathways in the high-tech and creative sector—with a stronger emphasis on current and future technology concepts in hardware, application and creative fields. The Microsoft IT Academy programme will be incorporated in the offerings to link participants to employment opportunities in tech industries.

imageFilemoni Timoteo, the organisation’s Chief Operating Officer, believes in social-cultural constructivism as the ideal pedagogy. The theory posits that people learn best through doing, allowing participants to construct personal meaning from their experience. “We see our programmes as providing a solid foundation for learning—with flexible parameters,” he said, and added that “the only limits come from the learner’s own ambitions and dreams.”

To date, Studio members have successfully had their stories selected for the media arts conference biennial Adobe Youth Voices Summit, a week-long gathering of young people and educators from around the world to celebrate the creativity and promise of the next generation.

“The beauty of technology is that it doesn’t discriminate. It enables anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity or gender, who has the access, to create—anything,” said Filemoni.

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