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NZTech CEO: 'We don't have enough big ICT companies'

Sathya Mithra Ashok | Feb. 4, 2014
Candace Kinser, CEO of NZ Technology Industry Association (NZTech), chats with ComputerWorld NZ on the important issues facing the country's ICT sector and how the association is working with both the government and the industry to enable faster, stronger growth in the future.

With technology and the people I have met, who have been incredibly successful entrepreneurs, especially with developers, it is much more of an art than a science in many ways. A creative bend of thinking, looking at how to do things differently and a keen problem solving ability — that is all part of their personalities.

Without chastising the education sector, I think a lot of that is taught out of kids. Technology is taught in a very process-oriented manner that can be nauseatingly constrained and boring, rather than being approached as this amazing creative environment where you can actually have fun, do design, and think outside the box in terms of problem solving. So it is the way it is taught, rather than what is taught.

Take Frances Valentine of the Media Design School. She is kind of the Joan of Arc of education, in the sense she is working to change the way it is done, and — as a one woman show — encourage youth and kids to become passionate and excited about technology.

I have been there for a lesson involving robotics to seven-year-olds. They were learning about motherboards, while having absolute fun. It was amazing. Imagine if you could take that sort of learning and put it into mainstream schools. How exciting it would be and how fun.

It really does come down to teaching teachers how to teach — giving them incentives to change. If you look at the average age of teachers in NZ, it is over 50 years. And they have been doing it for 25 years, so why would they want to change now? They are closer to retirement so they would rather do what they have been doing.

The other half of it is giving them the right tools and structure around different subjects. It is not just about a course in technology. It is about teaching chemistry, about maths and geography, and technology as part of that.

Q: How are you working as an association to improve educational offerings?

CK: We have taken the approach to work with the institutes themselves — the universities and polytechnics. The low hanging fruit is to help them understand what they need to change about curriculum and then put pressure on the government. We don't have enough people in the industry today. That we need to fix as a matter of urgency.

There's two ways you can do that: The first is Immigration NZ, which is the fastest — just get the people into the country that already know what to do. The second is to try and up-skill the kids who are enrolling or about to enrol in degree programs and will become a product our industry in the next few years.

 

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