A New Zealand health software company has announced plans to take on 150 new staff in Auckland and Christchurch over the next three months as it continues global growth.
Orion Health has 20 offices worldwide employing 775 people and is looking for 300 experienced software developers, of which half will be filled locally.
The move follows growth in global health markets, including the United States, where health care reforms have boosted activity.
Orion Health chief executive Ian McCrae said there was a huge amount of global activity in health care and the company was growing on average around 20 per cent a year.
McCrae said the opportunity for New Zealand to create wealth from health software development was available but the country needed to remain competitive.
Orion Health's core products assist with health information and exchange between facilities as well as direct secure messaging which allows patient information to be sent securely over the internet.
The firm, which is active in hiring graduates, has now partnered up with University of Canterbury to offer a scholarship and graduate recruitment programme combining summer work placements with academic studies for three computer science students.
The scholarships were established this year in partnership with the university, and McCrae said he hoped this would help attract talent in this area and encourage more IT graduates.
"We've got to create a supply of good talent," he said.
"Often talent exists, they're just studying the wrong things."
The need for IT to become an academic subject in schools was more crucial than ever, and McCrae said our education system and parents needed to promote that as an attractive career path for children.
"We have to make IT on a par with other sciences, and parents need to encourage kids to take career options where there are jobs," he said.
Vice-president of Orion Health, Brett Morris, said that working with schools was important in reversing New Zealand's underproduction of IT graduates.
"Kids need visibility on the options available to them, and what it means, so a lot of that is around working with schools and organisations to do that," Morris said.
Orion was formed in 1993 by McCrae as a software company focusing on healthcare software development even before the internet was available for commercial use. Another move by Orion to grow IT among children is the company's Cadworx initiative, which aims to change the perception of computer science in schools.
Secondary school students take part in challenges centred around computer innovation and programming in an attempt to boost digital knowledge and skills from an early age.
McCrae said that within health care systems New Zealand needed to focus educational resources where there was employment.
"In the next decade were going to see genomics come into health care, and we need the information and tertiary sector to get geared up for this," he said.
"Kiwi developers are good, but there isn't enough of them."
Orion is currently in discussions with other universities and hopes to increase the number of scholarships offered in the near future.