COVID-19 has really brought focus to all things digital, in education, the workplace, at home, the use of digital technologies has taken on new meaning and provided lifelines we could hardly imagine prior to the outbreak.

For Aotearoa the increasing demand for a skilled workforce has coincided with boarder closures meaning employers cannot rely on immigration to fill vacancies with experienced staff. All of this has brought our own performance as a country in developing a digitally capable workforce, and a pipeline of workers for the digital technology industry into the light.

The Digital Skills for a Digital Future report, launched earlier this month, digs into these issues, makes the following recommendations and really highlights the need for urgent system wide action:

Build the Digital Skills Pipeline

  • promote digital technology to students, parents and whanau
  • increase investment in educations confidence and upskilling
  • develop clearer pathways into digital roles
  • work with women, Māori and Pasifika communities to improve participation rates
  • develop consistent data for workforce planning
  • create and deploy targeted international talent attraction.

Support the Transition to Work

  • launch a national education to employment and workforce planning platform
  • develop digital apprenticeships pathways
  • simplify and expand internship grants
  • expand the governments GovTech graduate programme.

Upskill and Retrain

  • fund and coordinate specialisations across ICT Graduate schools
  • encourage industry accreditation
  • recognise and incentivise industry certifications.


In 2017 the Digital Skills Forum published the Digital Skills for a Digital Nation Report. This was the first survey and data based assessment of the industry workforce and education pipeline of Aotearoa.

With the backdrop of COVID-19 and the governments committment to developing an Industry Transformation Plan for Digital Technologies revisiting the report seemed timely. Again the approach was to survey businesses augmented by datasets.

Key messages from the report

The most concerning indictment from the report is the declining pipeline of students studying subjects that would prepare them for the Digital Technology workforce:

– year on year -2% decline in secondary school students studying STEM subjects

– 15,325 students across all levels of tertiary enrolled in Digital Technology studies

    – 1850 moved from secondary school into degree level courses

   – total tertiary students in Aotearoa 388,730 so  less than 4% studying Digital Technology

The other major area of concern is declining employer support for pathways into the workforce

–  2699 students registered for internships – only 13% or 352 of those were offered places

– 4462 new jobs created, 3863 jobs filled through immigration (choosing senior specialists)

– inconsistent and low levels of investment in staff training

Diversity wise the sector remains fairly unchanged which is an untapped opportunity for developing a stronger future workforce, as of 2019 the key diversity stats were 27% women, 4% Māori and 2.8% Pasifika.

Salaries have increased well ahead of inflation from a median salary within the sector of $82,000 in 2016 to $92,250 in 2019. It is worthy noting the median salary in Aotearoa in 2019 was $53,040 (see labour market statistics) making Digital Technology a very attractive industry income wise.

We need your to help

As the report suggests preparing our economy and investing in our future workforce requires a system wide change. Employers, the education system, government policy and funding agencies will all need to work together to accelerate change that works for all of us.

The industry groups – NZRise, NZTech, Institute of Technology Professionals ITP, InternetNZ and TUANZ are working together (and with government) to focus on the recommendations in the report. Please do get involved, if you aren’t a member of any of these and want to support this mahi please join a group and get involved.

My other plea here is for more coordination and less fragmentation of effort. There is a ground swell emerging wanting to solve our Digital Skills challenge so before you go and start something yourself please run it by one of us, we can point you in the direction of existing effort. Whether your interest is in creating internships, developing apprenticeships, activation in the schooling system, teaching our tamariki about digital technologies or another great idea, there will be someone else you can collaborate with so please please have a chat before starting something new.

Victoria MacLennan, Co-Chair NZRise and Chair, Digital Skills Forum


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We’re about strengthening the NZ-owned digital technology sector.

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