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New programme to battle skills shortage

Victoria MacLennan, Guest Post. 21 September 2017, 5:00 am
New programme to battle skills shortage

You may have seen we announced the "Return to IT" programme pilot. This will provide a great resource for businesses and industry specialists attempting to close the burgeoning skills gap and redress the gender imbalance we face as an industry.

Some of you might still be asking whether there really is a problem to solve here. It's over 20 years since I returned to the workforce so surely things have changed? Well they haven't. Only 3% of 15 year old girls want a career in Digital Technology, and of those women globally with STEM degrees a staggering 40% leave our industries to never return. Balance wise, the OECD reported recently that women hold between 17% and 30% of senior roles in the Digital Technology sector.

With an uncertain future of work ahead as we face increased automation and digitisation, enabling women to participate in the growing Digital Technology industry as equal participants is key to our economic prosperity as a nation.

I was 25 when I returned to work after a two year break to have babies. As a Linux administrator and Oracle DBA my early jobs involved long long hours, 24x7 on call, teams of long haired, chain smoking, black coffee drinking men (sorry to sound like I am stereotyping but you know who you are). Returning to that life did not look attractive at all, for me there was a strong pull towards a change in career.

Returning to work as a primary caregiver requires an employer who recognises the importance of both roles we hold as parents and employees. The need for flexible hours, the ability to be interrupted and drop everything when little Bill or little Jacinda fall off the climbing frame at kindy, and working in collaborative supportive environments are all key to attracting and retaining women.


To be perfectly frank encouraging women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers is tough enough, encouraging women to return to the Digital Technology industry after a career break is harder still.

The Return to IT programme is a testament to collaborative co-design between government and industry involving a year of research, focus groups with women on a career break, surveys and employer interviews. The resulting pilot programme aims to provide both employer education, employee mentoring and support, wrapped in a monitoring framework. Roles will be advertised and awarded as usual, employers can choose to design a role as one suitable for women returning to IT and assess them alongside other candidates.

This initiative was a collaboration between MBIE, Ministry for Women, NZRise and NZTech Women. You can learn more about the Return to IT programme at the website.

Victoria is a business owner, employer and investor who is passionate about growing great businesses, increasing capability and the productivity of New Zealand through Digital Technologies. She is co-Chair of NZRise, and chairs the Code Club Aotearoa Charitable Trust. 


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