Major systemic change needed in technology education if industry is to thrive

Major systemic change is required in vocational education coordination, funding and provision if New Zealand is to realise the potential of its digital technology industry.

This is the finding of Toi Mai Workforce Development Council’s first workforce development plan (WDP) for the Toi Whānui (Enabling Technologies) sector released today.

The WDP, Te Wao Toi Whānui, is the result of research and consultation with over a hundred learners, workers, education providers and businesses. The digital technology sector is set to overtake the primary sector as New Zealand’s largest export sector, and a highly skilled domestic workforce is needed to support this growth. Infometrics has forecast the need for a further 20,000 workers with advanced technology training by 2030.

Despite the sector being a highly paid, sustainable, innovative growth industry, government investment and tertiary provision in digital technologies training declined by $22 million (40%) between 2012–2022, with most of the decline in provision occurring outside central Auckland and in the regions.

On top of the drop in provision, the current education system is not set up to deliver what industry has said it needs, which is more work-based training, internships and digital apprenticeships.

Te Tumu o Toi | CEO of Toi Mai, Dr Claire Robinson says, “The education system urgently needs to develop and fund new work-based models of technology education. This type of delivery will also benefit the Māori and Pacific workforce who want the ability to earn while they learn.”

Robinson adds, “Many well-meaning government agencies have been trying to help by investing in short-term initiatives and pilot programmes, but there has been no strategic coordination across government, and there is no evidence these short-term pilots have improved the number of domestic technology-skilled workers, which only leads to an over-dependence on imported global talent to fix skills shortages.”

“What is needed is an industry- and government-coordinated, long-term and concerted effort to build a flourishing industry, and that starts with the way we teach and train technology,” says Robinson.

The WDP also highlights the need for more investment in Pacific- and Māori-led training initiatives, and the value of transferable skills. Currently, Māori represent 5% and Pacific 1.77% of the digital technology workforce (Stats NZ) and are missing out on the highly paid jobs available in the sector.

Toi Mai Poumatua Tama Kirikiri says, “In order to achieve workforce parity by 2040, we need to train another 60,000 Māori in digital technology post high school. This is a huge number, meaning that investment in technology education is now more critical than ever before if our future generations are to thrive in a digital economy.”

Kirikiri adds, “We need a major focus on vocational training at Levels 1–3 so there is more access for Māori and Pacific to pathway into the high levels of digital technology education.”

As an outcome of this plan, Toi Mai will be reviewing all its qualifications and developing new work-based models in conjunction with industry and providers, in addition to the classroom-based training currently offered.

Te Wao Toi Whānui is available online and is open for feedback from industry, training providers and those interested in the industry until 10 June.

Click here for more information and to access the workforce development plan, and other resources.

Key Facts:

  • 46,300 people with advanced technology skills work among over 120,000 people in the wider technology sector.
  • Employees in the digital technology sector earn, on average, $106,400 which is $50,000 more than the average New Zealand salary.
  • The sector is worth $20 billion and is the second largest exporter in New Zealand, contributing 8% to GDP in 2022.
  • The sector lacks diversity with 29% female, 5.01% Māori and 1.77% Pacific peoples participation (Stats NZ).
  • The sector is reliant on a large international workforce, with 45% of employees holding a visa (Stats NZ) which has led to a lack of specialised training.