ICT Trends: M?ori Participation in ICT
The first two articles of this ICT Trends series [May/June & July/August] highlighted concerns about the impending ICT skills shortages threatening the viability of the industry. The third article [Sept/Oct] looked at women in IT.
This week's article continues the discussion with a focus on the changing face of New Zealand's workforce and M?ori participation.
Workforce Participation Rates
At the recent TUANZ Rural Broadband Symposium Antony Royal, TUANZ board member, spoke about the changing face of NZ's workforce. He stated that by 2026 the median age of European New Zealand would be 46. In stark contrast the median age of M?ori and Pacific Island people would be only 23 years old, leading to a workforce that is predominantly brown-skinned (TUANZ This Week, Nov. 2011).
Currently, the Dept of Labour September quarter figures put the M?ori and Pacific Island people unemployment rate, both overall and for the 15 to 24 year-old cohort, at more than double the national average. This translates to 15% unemployed for both groups and 26% and 30% respectively for the 15 to 24 year-olds.
These unacceptably high unemployment rates present a huge challenge to all concerned, including those in the IT industry and the tertiary sector, to engage with these people in providing educational and employment opportunities.
Tertiary Enrolments by Ethnicity
So just how are the various ethnic groups, and M?ori in particular, engaging with tertiary education in general and the field of ICT specifically?
This month's edition of the ICT tertiary Education and Job Series, slides 2 to 5, illustrates tertiary enrolments by ethnicity.
Tertiary Enrolments All Levels and Fields
M?ori participation in tertiary education across all levels and fields compares well at 18%, with 15% proportion of M?ori in the total population.
ICT Diploma Enrolments ICT Degree Enrolments
However, M?ori participation rates for ICT-based qualifications (CS & IT) are significantly lower at 12% for diplomas and just 7% for degrees (Education Counts).
So M?ori tertiary participation is greater than population proportion, but less than half population proportion in ICT degrees.
M?ori Driven Initiatives
I had the recent privilege of attending an event at Te Mahurehure Marae, 'Developing the Nations Telecommunications Future'. Antony Royal and Daphne Luke from Ng? P? Waea (National M?ori Broadband Working Group), who are also both involved with the Te Huarahi Tika Trust, addressed the group. Their role is ensure M?ori participation in the Ultra Fast Broadband [UFB] and Rural Broadband Initiative [RBI] projects as they are rolled out. They spoke passionately about building relationships with telcos and tertiary institutions to provide skills development, training and job opportunities, particularly for M?ori, but also for all groups including young and not so young.
As chair of Ng? P? Waea Anthony is uniquely positioned, together with other equally passionate members of the various organisations he belongs to, to identify the ICT job opportunities, especially with the telcos, and to help close the skills gap by engaging M?ori and other disenfranchised groups in ICT training and education.
The work currently being undertaken by Nga Pu Waea, in engaging with telcos, Te Wananga, ITPs, and Industry training Organisations such as ETITO promises a great future for M?ori employment while addressing the short and long term labour and skill needs for the ICT industry.
Demand for ICT Talent
Looking at demand for ICT talent in a broader context, for the month of September IT experienced the strongest growth of all fields as defined by the Department of Labour, up by 12.5%.
This growth should continue to ramp up, especially with the implementation of the UFB and the RBI underway. Both of these major undertakings are expected to exacerbate the current ICT skills shortages here in NZ, coupled with Australia's predicted demand for talent with 28,500 new ICT jobs in the five years to 2014-15 (Refer Sept Trends Edition).
Growing NZ's Digital Economy
There is broad recognition by the sector that education is the key to addressing the ICT skills shortage impacting the growth of the ICT sector and industry wide productivity.
In NZICT's policy document NZ's Digital Economy, the section on 'Education and Skills' states that "New Zealand is hampered by an ICT skills shortage impacting the growth of the ICT sector and industry wide productivity" and "a focus on ICT-related education and skills are fundamental to New Zealand's endeavour to improve its Digital Economy".
The relevance of these policies is reinforced in an article by Henrietta Kjaer in the November edition of ITBrief. In it she states that "skills shortages have become a real concern in the IT industries, globally, as well as in NZ". David Stone, CE for the NZ TCF, states, in an extract from the same article, that "fundamentally, we are not training sufficient specialists to meet the ICT needs.......".
In conclusion, it is apparent that the leaders of NZ's wide ICT industry are extremely concerned about the impact that the skills shortage is having on the potential growth of the sector and NZ's productivity.
NZ - Leading the World by Example
As stated last time, NZ is a world leader in the development and adoption of information technology.
The growth and viability of the sector is threatened by an ICT skills shortage that extends well beyond our shores. The current unacceptably high rates of NZ youth unemployment, in particular M?ori and Pacific Island people, provides a strong call to action to address the changing/aging face of NZ's predominantly European workforce.
It is incumbent upon this country to become a world leader in creating opportunities for all under-represented groups to participate in ICT education, leading to highly skilled and well paid jobs in the industry.
It's time for action!
Garry also produces a monthly report containing statistics and facts related to ICT enrolments and job trends which can be accessed on the CITRENZ site.
Garry Roberton is a Senior Lecturer with the School of IT at Wintec and Executive Board Member and Fellow of CITRENZ.
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