New Zealand’s tech sector is growing, and assisting and fostering this growth is a key focus for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Within MBIE, the Digital Economy team was established in 2015 to support and encourage continued growth, working closely with the wider digital community.
Growth can be achieved by encouraging start-ups, fostering innovation and enabling the economy to harness opportunities brought by disruptive technologies. Growth can also be encouraged by getting more skilled workers into the sector.
Last month MBIE launched ‘Return to IT’, a pilot programme encouraging women to return to the tech sector.
Based in Wellington, Return to IT assists women who have a digital technology background to return to work in the sector after taking a career break of between two and five years. Successful applicants will be offered an opportunity to be placed with a participating organisation, or assistance with seeking employment in the IT sector.
Not only will the initiative help build the pipeline of skilled workers in the tech sector; it is also a way to improve diversity in a traditionally male-dominated sector.
According to the 2013 census, women make up just less than one quarter (23 per cent) of those employed in IT occupations. Encouraging diversity in the sector is also a key focus of industry bodies NZTech Women and NZRise – both partners in the Return to IT pilot – along with the Ministry for Women.
With the pilot, we want to show employers there is a wealth of untapped talent out there that with a small amount of training and support could assist with the skills shortages faced by the sector.
A number of organisations have signed up to be part of the pilot, including ANZ, Cigna, Intergen, Transpower and Westpac. MBIE is also on board.
These organisations will not only provide employment opportunities but will also assist in designing tools for other employers considering implementing a Return to IT programme. For example, the tools will show how to encourage more diversity in an organisation, how to encourage flexible working and how to attract more women to apply for tech roles.
If you know of women who have previously worked in the tech sector and who might be interested in finding out more about the pilot, they can check it out at www.returntoit.co.nz.
Written by Sandra Laws, MBIE
Sandra is a Policy Advisor within the Digital Economy team at MBIE. As one of the members of the project team for the Return to IT pilot, she is passionate about diversity in the tech sector. She also has a keen interest in technology trends and implementation of new technologies. Sandra is a member of NZTech Women’s High Impact Team and is currently on the NZ Internet of Things Alliance Executive. Follow the Digital Economy team on Twitter @MBIEdigital