A Government move to expand technology education in schools doesn't go far enough to develop the specialists the growing sector needs, say industry leaders.
Ian McCrae, CEO of Orion Health, Frances Valintine founder of Unitec's Mind Lab, and Ian Taylor, CEO of Animation Research, wrote an open letter to Education Minister Hekia Parata today calling for digital technology to be as significant as maths and science in schools.
Parata announced the introduction of Digital Technology as a formally integrated subject in the New Zealand curriculum last week after a 12 month review in 2015.
But the three tech leaders say it's not good enough. "Our secondary school students should be presented with an academic option developing their ability to understand computer logic, code and design," the letter said.
Xero managing director Anna Curzon agreed more needed to be done to encourage young people to pursue a career in technology and older people to support the interest.
Curzon said regional New Zealand should be embracing the growth of the tech sector in New Zealand, which generated $16.3 billion GDP in 2015, because the work can be done from anywhere.
"I don't think we've gone far enough. It's about helping Kiwis to get into amazing careers that will really set them up to have good incomes moving forward."
Digital technology should be "part of the DNA of education", Curzon said.
Linda Bateson, head of people experience at Xero, said Xero was still in a period and growth and was looking to fill 200 roles, ranging from graduate to senior positions, this year.
"We're still desperately looking for talent and good people," she said.
Bateson said it was a struggle to fill positions, particular roles for senior software developers and cloud technology experts.
This year Xero has hired 38 people for positions in New Zealand who were on some sort of visa, and Bateson said Xero was fortunate to have a good relationship with Immigration NZ allowing them to find specialists from all over the world.
"We're still definitely seeing the need for that because we just don't have the people here, unfortunately."
In a statement iresponding to the open letter from tech leaders, Parata said children would be learning digital technology in all areas of the school curriculum.
"The change we're making means a child will start learning about digital technologies from when they start school and can choose to continue with it all the way through to Year 13, leading on to specialist training for a digital career.
"Our young people need to be prepared to use digital technologies in all industries from automotive engineering to biotechnology."