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High school students get a dry run on IT careers

High school students get a dry run on IT careers

Programme at Manukau Institute of Technology raises awareness of career opportunities in IT among school students.

Edwina Mistry, a senior lecturer at the Manukau Institute of Technology, turned around the traditional practice of having professionals talk to students to encourage them to consider certain careers and courses.

Mistry, a member of the faculty of business and information technology at MIT, is helping organise a programme to help raise awareness of career opportunities in IT and business with South Auckland school students.

“When you take an industry person to go to schools, it is like having another teacher teaching them,” she says. “I felt it was important to take these kids outside of their comfort zone, on into the industry.”

So when she started the Business Career Experience programme with MIT and Davanti Consulting last year, she made sure that the students will speak to the ICT professionals – right in their workplace. “We need to take the students to industry to experience first-hand what it is to have a career in ICT,” she says.

This year, 32 students from low-decile schools in South Auckland, will be joining the three-day programme, to be held on July 16 to 18. This was an increase from the 20 students from last year.

The Year 10 and 11 students are mainly Maori and Pacifica, and are selected through interviews. “They don’t have the opportunities other kids may have to go into these organisations.”

They will attend a three day ‘camp’ where they will be arranged into teams of four. On the first day they are assigned into groups, and trained on communication and interview skills. Each team, accompanied by a mentor, will interview four different IT industry participants, and learn about their experiences and opportunities from working in IT. The interviewees are selected to provide a cross-section of career types including help desk, project management, CIO, sales, business analysis and architecture.

“We chose people who have a story to tell, they should be able to relate to the children and are inspiring and motivational as well.”

On the afternoon of the second day, the students go back to MIT and put together a presentation of the things they learned. Each team then develops content which explains career opportunities in IT from their viewpoint. This content is assembled onto a website and will be available for families and communities to view.

The presentations are recorded, and there is a prize for the best presentation. The parents, principals and career advisers are invited to attend the presentations.

The programme has received funding from a range of organisations including ANZ Bank, Dell NZ, Duo NZ, Davanti Consulting, Eagle Technologies, Fuji Xerox NZ, IT Engine, Imagetext Systems Integrators and NZICT.

Mistry, who can be reached at MIT or via email at edwina.mistry@manukau.ac.nz, says the programme welcomes any assistance from companies to nominate their employees as interviewees, or provide financial assistance.

Mistry joined MIT over 15 years ago following a career in IT that included working for Wang overseas and in New Zealand, and at a company that became Gentrack. She says her students are aged 18 to 50, and some 30 to 40 percent of them are Maori and Pacific. “Some of my students are older than me”, she says, and the roll includes school leavers and mothers coming back to study.

Mistry is active in a range of programmes to encourage more people go to into an ICT career. MIT encourages students to be work ready so she invites representatives of recruitment companies to talk to students about interview techniques and how to apply for jobs in the industry.

In March, she says, over 60 school principals, teachers and career advisers came to MIT to listen to IT and business leaders on how to prepare their children for careers in business and IT. This month, MIT is organising an IndustryConnect Forum to be held at Macleans College where students from years 11, 12 and 13 and their parents, can listen to business leaders talk about a career in IT. The students will come from schools in East and South Auckland.

Mistry says her involvement in these programmes comes from a desire to “give something back to the community”.

With the Business Career Experience, she says, the aim was for students to come away understanding that working in IT is not all about computers or programming. That an IT career can be fun, that many IT professionals didn’t study IT at school or university, and have a wide variety of career opportunities. As well as having a high earning potential, they learn that “IT plays a fundamental role in every type of business,” she says. Divina Paredes (@divinap) is editor of CIO New Zealand.

Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

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