Tech-minded people in Whanganui will soon have a new tertiary opportunity.
Wellington’s Dev Academy is expanding north, bringing with it a four-month course in web development.
The organisation has been operating for 10 years and has campuses in the capital and Auckland.
Whanganui co-ordinator Alex Clark, a tech entrepreneur and founder of PressPatron, said the programme was made up of a six-week foundation course with online learning modules, followed by a nine-week boot camp.
“That’s more intensive. It’s where it starts getting to the 40-60 hour work weeks,” he said.
“In addition to learning from the teacher, there are also a bunch of projects - individual, peer programming and group projects, with several students collaborating together.
“The final two weeks are focused on careers assistance - helping nurture those graduates into the workforce and connecting them with the human skills they need to be able to do that well.”
Clark, the former editor of Tearaway magazine in Whanganui, said graduates of the programme received a Level 6 Certificate in Applied Software Development - enough to be a junior software developer in the workplace.
“The average salary for those positions is $65,000 a year and the median salary for tech jobs is about $100,000 within six years.”
Dev Academy will collaborate with economic development agency Whanganui & Partners, Whanganui District Council and innovation hub The Backhouse.
One graduate, Whanganui resident Reuben Osborne, now works remotely for Canadian company Shopify.
Dev Academy founder and chief executive Rohan Wakefield said Shopify was one of the biggest tech companies in the world.
“He [Osborne] is in lovely Whanganui, earning a pretty good wage with an international company. It’s great.
“That, to me, is accessing a great opportunity.”
Wakefield said from day one, Dev Academy’s “main overarching thing” was to see tech become New Zealand’s biggest export.
“It’s a weightless export, we’re really good at it, it pays well, all these sorts of things.
“When we looked at who had access to the opportunity, we noticed it was particularly in our cities and particularly not diverse - it was often just men.
“If we were going to do something, we needed to do it properly.”
Expanding to the regions was part of that, and now Dev Academy was more established it was time to fully invest in it, Wakefield said.
Whanganui will be the second pilot programme after Gisborne.
“When you look under the hood and get to know the tech sector, there are some great practitioners [in Whanganui],” Wakefield said.
“We thought, ‘Here is a community we can support and we can grow’. It fits our mission and vision for Dev Academy.”
The first Whanganui programme begins on August 28, with in-person classes at The Backhouse.
Tuition fees were $11,500, but fees-free study applied to those in their first year of tertiary education, Clark said.
“Even if someone isn’t eligible for fees-free, they can still get a student loan and student living costs and anything else they are eligible for through StudyLink.
“It’s not like they have to find all that money out of pocket. It can be paid back over time. If they get a tech job, that should be fairly straightforward.”
Dev Academy had met with Ngāti Apa, Ngā Rauru and Te Runanga o Tupoho to explore ways to enhance pathways for Māori, Clark said.
Whanganui District Council connected community adviser Jo Buckingham said she was all for community-led development.
“Regional New Zealand is going to get left behind unless we do something for ourselves. I’m behind the kaupapa of ‘by Whanganui, for Whanganui’, and this Dev Academy partnership offers the ability to explore that.
“We have amazing tech people in our community, some who grew up here and have come back.
“They really want to make sure the experience they had of having to leave Whanganui doesn’t have to be the reality any more.”
Wakefield said most people who came through the programme were aged 25 to 35.
It could be a university leaver who thought, ‘Why did I study that?’, or someone already in employment who was looking for something different.
“We’ve had people from all walks of life, even those in the logging and farming sectors.
“It’s a great programme and it transitions you as quickly as possible. It gets you into work - that’s the idea.”
An information session will be held at The Backhouse on July 26 from 6pm to 8pm.
For more information, go to devacademy.co.nz/whanganui/.
Mike Tweed is an assistant news director and multimedia journalist at the Whanganui Chronicle. Since starting in March 2020, he has dabbled in everything from sport to music. At present his focus is local government, primarily the Whanganui District Council.