In 2014 the National-led government allocated $28.6 million over four years for the development and delivery of ICT Graduate Schools in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch. The aims were to develop ICT skills and provide students with real-world learning experiences, create clear pathways into employment for students and reduce search costs for businesses seeking skilled graduates.

The Auckland school opened in 2016  (the Waikato course is a collaboration between Auckland and Waikato University). Already it has strengthened relationships between businesses and tertiary providers and given businesses greater visibility and access to top academic talent.

The initiative has been a huge success, says Gillian Dobie, director of the Auckland ICT Graduate School.

“In two years the number of students who have completed either a transitional postgraduate certificate or a Master of Information Technology at the school has gone from zero to more than 200. Students have readily taken to this industry work-focused study option and future numbers show no sign of decreasing.

“The IT industry has also taken up the opportunity of working with work-ready graduates and, with industry support, we are able to satisfy the growing numbers of internships each year. Industry also provide support and direction through the Industry Advisory Group, hosting events for their networks to promote the school and providing speakers for student workshops on workplace expectations, ethics and professionalism.”

Companies that have taken on interns from the Auckland school include BNZ, Deloitte, Kiwibank and Datacom.

What’s the entry process?

“The postgraduate certificate requires a student to have a bachelor’s degree in a subject area outside information technology, i.e. not computer science or software engineering.
“Students gain fundamental skills in software development, including up-to-date knowledge of object-oriented programming and design, web technologies and databases, and version control, which complement their existing critical thinking and communication abilities,” says Dobie.

Do most students have an IT background?

“We offer two qualifications, the postgraduate certificate for those transitioning into IT, and the Master of Information Technology for those with an IT background. Both qualifications can be taken as full-time or part-time programmes. The postgraduate certificate students have a bachelor’s from a broad range of subject areas, including biomedical, law, and engineering, and are looking to add a new skillset to their existing portfolio. [Those taking] the Master of Information Technology are looking to add more advanced technical skills, alongside work-relevant skills. The part-time students are typically working in industry and are looking to upskill.”

Which key ICT areas do you offer?

“The aim of the programmes is to balance professional development with technical skills. The students can focus their study in areas like software development, security, networking, artificial intelligence, data management and internet computing.”

What’s different about NZ’s ICT industry?

“In New Zealand there are typically two types of tech companies: those that offer IT services and those that develop IT products. There are also companies that are IT consumers, although many of them are seeing themselves more as developers of IT products now, such as banks.

“The IT product companies are typically home-grown and not as large as the service companies. A lot of New Zealand companies, ranging from Pingar and Booktrack to Air New Zealand, are taking an interest in artificial intelligence.”

Jack’s story…

Jack Wan, 22, who is just completing his Master of Information Technology, says the ICT postgrad school opened up a new career path.

He is a biomed graduate with an interest in computers and IT. It seemed he was destined for med school until he took the ICT postgrad course last year.

“The PG Cert teaches basic web technologies,” says Jack. “It closely mimics the development environment in the real industry.

“It’s a 10-week course with lots of practical time coding. At the end of the 10 weeks there’s a big project where you develop a product.”

In contrast, the master’s programme focuses more on project management and innovation and is more academic based, covering research areas within IT as well as business, management and enterprise. It ends with a 10-week internship where students get
hands-on experience in the industry.

Jack interned at Liverton Technology, a local company that works in technology solutions, where he worked on a Smart Check automation system for hotels.

The experience gave him experience around web and app development, skills he hopes to combine with his background in biomedicine to solve problems in the New Zealand health system.

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