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We can't expect the government to fix all our problems

Sathya Mithra Ashok | Jan. 22, 2014
Paul Matthews, CEO of the Institute of IT Professionals (IITP), has a candid chat with ComputerWorld New Zealand on the changing nature of the industry, the challenges that are yet to come and the role of the various IT organisations in the country.

However I should be clear -- while we do provide low-cost introductory training, we're not an educational institution in our own right and don't intend to be. Every university and most significant polytechnics and PTEs are part of our educational program and we work with both the secondary and tertiary sector to identify future trends and help them meet the needs that arise as a result.

All in all, what the industry is missing is a broad and widely adopted professional skills and competency framework that helps IT folks plan out career progression and development.

We've been working on this in relation to the SFIA Framework and it's great to see the adoption of this in NZ is growing.

Q: What are the challenges you see ahead for the ICT market and professionals in the country?
PM: Numbers and mindset.

Firstly, we need to get more people into IT and those that are in our field focused on the right areas. There is a huge skills shortage. Frankly, it's not across the board in every area, but we are short by more than 10,000 people.

We have a number of initiatives underway to address this, such as ICT-Connect in schools, which is all about getting IT professionals into schools to talk about a future in our field. This project is funded by industry, with more than 40 companies such as Datacom, Orion Health and Potentia contributing. In 2013 we got in front of over 30,000 school students nationwide -- so it's making a huge difference.

From a mindset perspective, we have thousands of really smart software and IT companies throughout New Zealand, but far too many of them see New Zealand as their market, or worse, their local town as their market. As an industry we need to be thinking globally and it's great to see things like the tech trade missions facilitated by NZTE and NZTIA over the last year or two helping to explore global opportunities.

If we can catch up on the numbers we need in the industry, and continue along the road towards a global mindset, nothing will hold us back. Our sector has the potential to easily overtake dairy as the country's largest export.

Frankly, high paid, high-skill knowledge-based jobs are the future for New Zealand rather than more cows and polluted rivers.

Government has a core role to play, but we can't just expect them to fix all our problems for us either — it's a partnership.

Q: How can government and policy aid in alleviating these challenges going forward?
PM: Credit where credit's due: the government is becoming more and more active in this space and is contributing significantly. There are still some issues to work through, such as some structural problems around where IT is positioned in schools, but we're getting an increasingly warm reception — and results — from right across government on these issues and more.


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