Māori and Pasifika students set sights on IT careers through P-TECH

By Mare Haimona-Riki

A worldwide programme designed to fast-track high school students into tech careers is now operating in six Auckland schools. 

Established in 2011 by IBM in New York , P-TECH is now in its third year in Aotearoa after a successful pilot programme at Aorere College and Manurewa High School in Auckland.

“The students love it,” Manurewa High School principal Pete Jones says.

“It gives them that real-world exposure and it gives them those connections with the mentors and the mentors give them a whole other perspective. So it makes the curriculum come alive and it makes the purpose of school really clear.”

Tāmaki College, Onehunga College, Southern Cross Campus and Māngere College have just joined the programme, alongside new industry partners ANZ, Foodstuffs North Island, IBM, Spark and Vodafone.

Mykah Togiatu is a year 12 student from Manurewa High School, and she said she initially wanted to get into the tech sector because of the salary and the shortage of work because she knew she was definitely going to get a job but, after her first year in the programme, she has other motives.

“I saw the influence it has on the world and in the communities and everything we do. It's something I'm passionate about,” she says.

P-TECH students Mykah Togiatu (left) and Teivanui Tararo

Māori and Pasifika representation on the programme is 83% collectively, which is hopeful given the latest statistics that show only 4% of the IT workforce are Māori and 2.8% are Pasifika.

IBM business consultant and student mentor Ian Hulme says Māori and Pasifika in the sector are vital to solve problems in those communities.

“The risk of not having Māori or Pasifika participation in technology is that we're really missing an important lens for our people in terms of what the real problem is. Because often if you've got no true insight into some of the things that we struggle with, how can you expect to solve them, so it's really important that we see Māori and Pasifica.”

Some 250 students from years 11 to 13 will be enrolled in the P-Tech programme across the six participating schools and some of the students will be in paid internships by the end of this year.