New Zealand's technology sector says a $40 million investment package to retain teachers and improve the digital fluency of youth will significantly help New Zealand.
Prime Minister Bill English and Education Minister Nikki Kaye unveiled the package yesterday, which will include a $6m "Digital Technology for All Equity Fund" that the Government hopes will promote "computational thinking" in youths.
$1.2m of the funding will go into a "national digital championship", which is "aimed at exciting students to use digital technologies to come up with innovative ways to solve community, social or environmental challenges," Kaye said.
The announcement was a step towards aligning the education curriculum with what the market required, Managing Director of Technology Investment Network Greg Shanahan said.
"It is important kids are trained to go into a changing workplace. The demand for technology-based skills has increased dramatically.
"Technology is now our third largest export sector. The 200 largest technology exporters have shown a growth of 3,000 jobs annually, more than half of those are in New Zealand. Those companies have a combined worth of $9.4 billion and have had a 12 per cent growth in revenue annually."
The sector employs close to 100,000 workers, Shanahan said.
Half of our current professions will not exist in 10 years, Chief executive of IT Professionals New Zealand Paul Mathews said.
"Artificial intelligence will replace a lot of our jobs, so the sorts of roles that are needed are those which will get the most out of technology.
"We are really happy to see an investment in teachers alongside technology so they can upskill and encourage kids to be innovators and critical thinkers in the future.
"Kids can learn core principles which underpin solving problems with technology. These things are becoming life-skills now."
Co-founder and General Manager of OMGTech, a technology workshop provider, Zoe Timbrell said digital fluency is as fundamental to a child's future as literacy and numeracy.
"Over 60 per cent of the jobs our primary school kids will do in the next 12-15 years aren't around today.
"It's important we use the tools of the future, not the tools of the past. New jobs may be 100 per cent digitally based, even things like art and design may be completely digital. 10 years ago we didn't have smartphones. Our interaction with technology is completely shifting and we want young Kiwi kids to have the chance to be a part of the future.
"We are excited to see real-world application of new technologies. Kids can do something amazing with their lives using the tools of the future."
While the announcement is a step in the right direction, the Government's $40m investment was "a bit light", technology commentator Peter Brislen said.
"It's going to require a lot of resources. I think they may have underestimated how big of a job it is.
But it does allow New Zealand the chance to move from consumers of technology to creators of technology, Brislen said.
"There have been a stunning number of startups coming out of New Zealand, so to develop interest much earlier gives us the opportunity to find more people who can create our future."