Free and flexible courses encourage diversity in the tech sector by removing barriers of time and cost, says Mike Smith, of IBM. Photo / Supplied
A large number of New Zealand job seekers want to switch careers to technology but are concerned they lack the skills to get into the expanding industry.
A new study by tech giant IBM shows two in five New Zealanders would consider a career change to technology. Most want to work in the industry because of the ongoing demand for skills.
IBM also found employers would hire someone with non-traditional certification in technology and business.
It found skills, rather than traditional qualifications, were valued.
The research comes as IBM launches two new online platforms: SkillsBuild Reignite for job seekers and business owners, and P-Tech for students.
The platforms include free courses in fast-growing IT fields of cybersecurity, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud system administration.
IBM’s online research found the main barrier to switching to a tech career was lack of skills – 56 per cent of those surveyed ticked that box.
Those people were also put off moving to technology because of perceived high study costs (57 per cent) and lack of time because of family commitments (34 per cent).
One in five (19 per cent) said they were more likely to consider a career change to technology after seeing the number of businesses and education facilities move online during the Covid-19 pandemic.
IBM New Zealand managing director Mike Smith said Covid had hit fast-forward on New Zealand’s digital journey and job seekers needed fresh skills to take advantage of opportunities in the booming tech sector.
The digital world had seen unprecedented growth because of Covid and businesses that were not online scrambled to set up websites, apps, and a social media presence to survive.
Established websites needed fast improvements to keep up with increased traffic and to attract customers with higher expectations and increased choice.
Smith said there was a desperate need to invest in training, upskilling, and programmes designed to improve digital uptake.
Attracting more people from a wide range of backgrounds was vital, he said.
“This is to ensure this industry reaches its full economic potential, and so that the tools and solutions created for people reflect the needs of a wide range of people from all parts of society,” he said.
Smith said offering the courses online and free removed barriers of time and cost for those wanting a career in tech.
“SkillsBuild Reignite offers a practical way to retrain and build up a base in some of the latest business and digital skills,” Smith said.
“The learning is at your own pace and at no cost, to help get more Kiwis a step closer to a new career and address the skills gaps our industry faces here in New Zealand.”
SkillsBuild Reignite learners can tap into more than 370 learning activities including learning pathways for topics such as cybersecurity, data analytics, and AI, cloud administration, and web development.
Completing the courses leads to “micro-credentials” known as digital badges being awarded, which demonstrate progress and attainment to potential employers.
Smith wanted aspiring tech workers to earn “micro-credentials” as a way to expand their career options while attracting people from a wider range of backgrounds to a growing, economically important industry hungry for more skills.
To get more diversity into the industry, Smith led IBM to establish a multi-year partnership in 2019 with Aorere College, Manurewa High School, and MIT in 2019.
Year 11 students on the Pathways to Technology programme (P-Tech) progress through a five-year IT study and internship.
Some of the P-Tech class content is now available online for free as Open P-Tech.