The Hui and the Do-ey
By: Julie Thomas
Date: 24 Jun 2019
Category: Article reviews
The Digital Skills Hui, held in Wellington on 27 March, was an opportunity for industry, government and NGOs to shape priorities for the digital technology sector. Recommendations from the day were shared with the Tripartite Future of Work Forum and the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group. Julie Thomas attended on behalf of CDANZ Advocacy Team and recorded her observations here…
It was an ambitious day – keeping over 200 leaders engaged through two keynotes, three panels and three workshops. A show of hands had a three-way split between those in industry, government and NGOs/Community orgs, and a 50/50 split between those from Wellington and outside Wellington.
The Hon Grant Robertson framed digital skills as key to the Future of Work Forum. He laid a challenge to the audience in making ‘algorithms a force for good’ and ‘understanding, accepting and embracing diversity’ in the sector.
The Digital Diversity panel gave examples of their diverse workplaces. Pamela Bell, PrefabNZ, talked about how the prefabrication environment offers set hours and known health and safety conditions that suit women, with many of her team working mothers. Hiria Te Rangi, Whare Hauora sees no barrier in employing Maori women as remote workers – children are their priority and they are highly organised.
The Challenging the Status Quo panel talked about the education needs of future workers. Rohan Wakefield, Enspiral Dev Academy, asked employers what makes a great designer – they said it is the soft skills/human skills not coding e.g., work in teams/collaboration, self-awareness, resilience, learn to learn. Tim Bell, University of Canterbury, says young people need earlier exposure to careers in computers to break stereotypes – it’s about writing programme for people, so not just being very good technically but also the soft skills. Mona Gabr, Satellite Media, said Summer of Tech and internships was essential to her career pathway.
The Data Blitz panel talked about how to future proof organisations with digital skills. Bron Thomson, Springload, says the single best thing she does is vet all the staff (now 70 people) to create an environment that is a bit different. They use digital tools to allow flexibility around work including parents working from home. She noted the trend that people are looking for more than just a job, they want meaning, purpose and to do good. Kara Dentice, Te Tech Tribe, is in a start-up company wanting to put whanau at the centre and creating safe spaces for underserved communities. Stuart Robb, PartsTrader, has been in a digital marketplace for 14 years, and stresses you still need to create comfort and trust for customers through a brief digital window.
The Powering the Rise of Digital Natives panel spoke about their own career journeys. Shweta Barapatre, Snapper, stumbled into IT at Uni and had 3 internships across her degree that got her to where she is. Katiani Molitika, GovTech Graduate, didn’t understand he was developing digital skills in geography at University and knew nothing about the industry. He felt privileged to get onto the GovtTech programme as he wants to be a disrupter for his community. Nicholas Lane, Raygun, had a serendipitous career journey meeting someone in a start-up in Yr12 and falling in love with the industry. He chose a non-traditional route developing his skills through the junior entrepreneur programme and mentoring.
The three workshops were very well run but time poor. From a careers perspective there was a strong sub-theme of the need for better information and earlier exposure to career pathways, the importance of soft skills not just technical skills, and the need for lifelong development. Here’s a sample of the workshop themes from the verbal report back at the end of the day:
Preparing Aotearoa for the Future of Work
- Changing nature of employment and business practise
- People centred themes rather than AI/specific technology themes
- How – PD as core part of employment agreements, incentivising employers?
Bridging the Gap between education and employment in Digital Technology
- How do we inspire students to be interested in digi-tech?
- Need funds/grants/incentives for employers especially SMEs.
Diversity and Inclusion
- How to create safe place to talk about diversity and inclusion? What are the measures/goals?
- Whose responsibility is it and what are the measures/goals?
- How do we showcase great examples?
In closing the convenors said their strongest impressions of the day was that everyone wants to be part of the dialogue, and the Digital Skills Forum will take the themes directly to the Future of Work Forum and key organisations. Their view is that a lot is already being done so it may not be about doing lots of new things but about being more systematic and better resourced. The suggestion was that participants stay involved (CDANZ will) and that we take themes back to ‘work’ (hence this debrief).
In October this Post Event Briefing was issued by the Digital Skills Forum.