P-TECH tackles digital skills gap

Author: Mike Smith, Managing Director, IBM New Zealand

New Zealand like many other countries is experiencing a digital skills shortage as a result of industries being reshaped by data science, AI, cloud computing and cybersecurity. The Digital Skills Forum reported in December 2017 that New Zealand has a growing digital skills shortage, primarily due to the increasing speed and scale of demand for technology-related skills.

In addition to supporting local initiatives to increase diversity in the technology workforce, IBM is introducing a proven international solution to New Zealand called P-TECH or ‘Pathways in Technology.’ This inclusive education and workplace learning model is expected to be used by more than 200 schools worldwide by the end of this year – including two in Auckland.

Aorere College and Manurewa High School will run pilot programmes in term three in partnership with tertiary provider Manukau Institute of Technology and industry partner NZX-listed retailer The Warehouse Group.

P-TECH is a response to the growing need for emerging technology-related roles, sometimes called “new collar” positions, where flexible and relevant credentials and skills are paramount.  The course content complements existing New Zealand curricula as students complete a five-year pathway during their secondary and tertiary studies. Upon graduation, they receive both their NCEA qualifications and a two-year tertiary qualification aligned with industry needs.

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.


Early results in the USA show P-TECH graduation rates were five times the community college graduation rate for low-income students. New York education professional Rashid Davis who founded P-Tech, visited Auckland in early 2018 at the start of our P-TECH journey. Mr Davis explained the model’s goals in an interview saying “We have to teach students how to learn and how to constantly grow… it isn’t about getting one type of credential because they will be learning for the rest of their lives.”

The value of teaching students to become life-long learners is highlighted in an IBM survey of more than 5,000 global executives last year which found that 60% of respondents struggle to keep workforce skills current and relevant in the face of rapid technological advancement.

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 even more valuably, it 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.

Techweek 2019 – Celebrating innovation that’s good for the world.

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