Introducing Generation Z to P-TECH

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Author: Liz Hampton, Corporate Citizen Manager, IBM New Zealand

Creating Pathways In Technology

I’m an IBMer collaborating with two local schools, The Warehouse Group, Ministry of Education and the Manukau Institute of Technology to bring the programme called P-TECH (or Pathways in Technology) to New Zealand.  As part of that journey, we are running a ‘taster programme’ to introduce and spark interest in the programme for Year 11 students.

Meeting future colleagues

That’s how I find myself in a classroom at Manurewa High School in South Auckland – and where it occurs to me that I’m surrounded by my future work colleagues.  They’re curious, joyful and overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement.  They’re working together, collaborating, discovering, testing and trying out ideas with the aim of either succeeding fast or failing fast at the task they’ve been set.

In a nutshell, they’re learning, sharing and developing skills in ways I never did in a classroom setting. For me, skills were things that were measured, contrasted and judged and mostly learned through work, not at school.

In the school library for P-Tech workshop

In the school library for our P-Tech Taster workshop

Manurewa High School in South Auckland

Manurewa High School in South Auckland

They’re Generation Z

The students are 14 and 15 years old, known as Generation Z, also known as the iGeneration, iGen, and Post-Millennials. As a group,  Generation Z is entrepreneurial, socially aware and they’ve got a global outlook (they’ve watched global events unfold in real-time), and are Neo-Digital Natives who primarily communicate by video or movies. They make their preceding Digital Natives, aka the millennials, almost look out of date.

But as Alexia Hilbertidou , Founder of GirlBoss recently pointed out in a NZ Herald article:  “Just because someone knows how to play a game on a smartphone at the age of 5 doesn’t mean they know things like robotics or coding. There’s a huge gap between creating through technology and being a passive consumer of technology.”

Meeting of the minds: industry, students and education

One purpose of P-TECH is to address the growing digital skills shortage in New Zealand. Industries and business are being reshaped by data science, AI, cloud computing and cybersecurity. Alongside, there are new emerging technology-related roles or ‘new collar ‘ positions, many requiring entry-level skills.

The P-TECH course content focusses on building work-ready skills and complements existing New Zealand curricula as students complete a five-year pathway during their secondary and tertiary studies. Upon graduation, they will have both their NCEA qualifications, and a two-year tertiary qualification aligned with industry needs for entry-level roles.

The collaboration between industry, secondary and tertiary education, and with support from the Ministry of Education, allows P-Tech to align the skills being developed to those needed by employers.

In a world defined by rapid change, where the lack of ‘real world’ work experience is often cited as a barrier to employment, P-TECH offers a proven way to earn a tertiary qualification that connects directly to entry-level employment. Perhaps of more value, it also helps students develop the academic, technical and professional skills – such as critical thinking, problem-solving and communication – required to compete in the 21st-century economy.

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