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Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce earmarked almost $29 million over the next four years to deepen New Zealand’s technology talent pool.

The money will pay for Information and Communications Technology grad schools in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The last part is important. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all legitimately claim to be technology hubs. Post-earthquake Christchurch’s claim is the most fragile. Government money is a vote of confidence at an important time.

I doubt the planned Christchurch Innovation Precinct will attract start-ups. Technology entrepreneurs have better things to spend money on than renting fancy offices.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Technology companies have much to gain from clustering, it’s good for inter-company relationships. Innovation thrives in tight-knit communities. Putting a graduate school on the same site intensifies this effect.

Wellington’s geography gives the city a natural advantage when it comes to clustering. Auckland, however, is far more fragmented.

Labour ICT spokesperson Clare Curran says the plan is ‘woefully inadequate’. In a statement, she says 350 students in four years time is not enough and calls for a more focused technology policy.

While the centres are going to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, it seems they may not automatically be part of the universities or polytechnics in those cities. The government’s press release says:

A tender process will be used to seek innovative proposals from education providers and their industry partners to develop and operate the ICT Graduate Schools.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. Is this the kind of teaching that can be sensibly outsourced? What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Government tech grad schools aim to plug skills gap

  1. I don’t think this can be outsourced. We have something in this country (maybe not as much as we used to – globalisation and all) that makes us different and I think keeping that is key to success. We need recognition – mainly in our own damn country – and people to take our tech sector serious and realise how important it is and that it is a major backbone to our economy, dairy farming or not.

    More focus is needed on bringing up the level of knowledge we impart. We don’t need kids who can play with the latest toys, we need kids who know how and have ideas on building the next fun toys. I think concentrating people who are like-minded in their passions for technology is necessary to make this work. I don’t think our population of geeks is big enough right now to be spread across 3 cities.

  2. ” I don’t think our population of geeks is big enough right now to be spread across 3 cities”

    If that is a problem – and I’m not saying it is or it isn’t – one thing’s for sure, the way the tech community is spread out across Auckland is a problem of the same magnitude. In Wellington technology people rub shoulders with each other all the time, I hear this happens in Christchurch too. I’m not so sure about Auckland.

    • I am in Auckland right now and can qualify that with a definite “yes” as far as I can tell.

      Getting around Auckland is a problem of a much greater magnitude than I thought. Getting to some places in Auckland can take as long as travelling to Hamilton instead. Being someone relying on public transport it really narrows the area you’re willing to travel to meet people.

      • When I used to travel to Auckland from Wellington for regular meetings, I could get from Hataitai to Queen Street faster than some of my Auckland-based colleagues. 🙂

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