Wellington ICT on attracting Pasifika and Maori students

Wellington ICT Graduate School is a partnership between Wellington’s three tertiary institutions, Victoria University, Whitireia NZ and Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec). Launched in May 2016, the graduate school aims to create a diverse supply of industry-ready talent for New Zealand’s growing ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) sector. For CEO Rees Ward, attracting Pacific and Maori is a priority.



When Rees Ward grew up in Lower Hutt, he presumed his Pacific and Māori friends from his local high school would follow a similar path to successful careers they loved.


The fact that the majority were not able to or hadn’t continued their education to tertiary level is a motivating factor for taking on the CEO role.


“With the Wellington ICT Graduate School, all you need is any bachelor’s degree, and we’re currently developing programmes for people without degrees,” he says.


“That allows for those Pasifika nurses, teachers, jazz musicians and mums returning to the workforce to study for a year and gain a fully-fledged Masters degree, a certificate or diploma and be equipped to secure these well-paying ICT jobs.”


“There’s little problem attracting international students to Wellington (a Deutsche Bank global study published in early May of 47 cities looked at everything from the cost of living, pollution, climate and house prices, and ranked Wellington first),” says Rees, a Victoria University graduate whose own extensive career includes being a lawyer in Auckland and London.


He was also a Project and Legal advisor for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and most recently the NZ Deputy Consul General for Western USA (Silicon Valley in San Francisco and Los Angeles).


“Wellington is a great city to live in and it is pleasing to see the city’s economic development agency (WREDA) assisting hundreds of offshore tech people with interviews via their ‘LookSee campaign’, but I ask ‘how can we support the people already living here into those awesome tech jobs?’”


Rees is doing so by preaching the values of education within the local Pacific communities, including a visit to Cannons Creek in Porirua speaking to leaders of 50 local Pacific congregational churches. Experience with the communities tells him appealing to students alone is not enough.


Rees’ role is convincing, not only Pasifika students, but also their support networks of parents, churches and wider societies, of the growth of opportunities the ICT sector offers.


“If you look right across the board in terms of jobs, the traditional manufacturing and labouring jobs are in decline because of automation, while the ICT sector is booming, with almost 100,000 people employed by 28,000 companies (according to an NZTech release Digital Nation New Zealand, From Tech Sector to Digital Nation in June 2016),” he says.


“And this year SEEK recorded the ICT industry had the highest growth rate and the average advertised annual salaries ($92,700), which was more than a third higher than trades and services.


“For whatever reason, Pacific people are missing out on tertiary education opportunities.


“In ICT, comparatively, even fewer are studying at tertiary level in ICT than other subjects and not signing up to study ICT or STEM subjects … even though they would do well to because the sector is experiencing growth so jobs are more secure and they also happen to be better paid!”


There’s the perception of difficulty among Pacific students entering the ICT sector unless they decide very early on in their education-journey.


Pasifika students get access to government support in the form of student loans, from tertiary institutions in the form of Pasifika student associations and services, plus back-up from the Wellington ICT Graduate School itself in the form of soft-skill development, internship opportunities, business networking, Pasifika mentorship, and career support.


“There has never been a better time or as many pathways and support networks into the ICT sector for Pasifika students as there is now. It is not fair if the Pasifika community and all of us, don’t encourage and aid Pasifika youths to grasp these opportunities” 


For more information go to: www.wellingtonict.ac.nz