When the Year 7 students of Stanhope Road School descended upon Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter tech companies, they weren’t exactly sure what to expect.  

Stanhope principal, Jesse Lee, had reached out to arrange the visit with the aim of increasing the kids’ exposure to tech careers. The school recently implemented IT classes, so the experience was a chance to understand what pursuing this pathway could look like. 

“It’s important to get kids involved in tech early because what they experience of digital technology is usually just through consuming it as opposed to creating it, so this provides exposure to their world that gives them value around digital technology,” says Jesse. 

Challenging misconceptions 

Datacom, Air New Zealand, Microsoft and IBM rallied together to make the expo-style day happen. The businesses organised activities around innovative projects to showcase the variety of opportunities on offer in tech, the importance it has in everyday life, and how working in IT can be a way to make a positive impact. 

Giving kids a taster of tech early on is one way to help challenge some of the misconceptions around tech, which were highlighted in recent research from Datacom and which stop people pursuing tech careers. 

With 5000 roles being created but only 2000 people pursuing IT education annually, initiatives like the Stanhope School visit are a small step that can help play a crucial role in attracting more young people into tech and creating brighter futures for Kiwis, says Managing Director for NZ at Datacom, Justin Gray. 

“Helping young students to understand what a career in tech really looks like and some of the different ways tech shows up in their lives is a smart way to grow interest in potential tech and STEM careers. Datacom is one of New Zealand’s largest homegrown tech companies so it’s really important to us that we are helping to build the workforce we need for the future, and opportunities for people to find a pathway to a tech career. We’re always keen to support programmes and initiatives that help to do that.” 
One Stanhope student already has plans to work at Datacom following the tour: “I would like to work at Datacom because I thought that jobs in IT were just about digital technology, but it’s so much more than that. You can do whatever you’re interested in.”

Students smiling
Giving kids a taster of tech early on is one way to help challenge some of the misconceptions around tech, which were highlighted in recent research from Datacom.

First-hand fun – and learning

Following introductions and a karakia to welcome everyone and open the day at Datacom, the 64 students separated into four groups and set out on rotations between offices, ready to take on whatever came their way.  

Students at Datacom
After introductions and a karakia at Datacom to start the day, the children set out on their rotations.

At Air New Zealand, they tested out VR headsets designed to enable better co—working, where they could explore a virtual office and it’s surrounds ahead of the company’s head office relocation to Auckland Airport. 

Students at Datacom
The kids had the opportunity to try out virtual reality headsets at Air New Zealand, while IBM offered a design thinking workshop to get them thinking laterally.

At IBM, they were taken through a design thinking exercise to encourage an innovative mindset, while the team at Microsoft took them on an office tour, where they learnt what a day in the life at the company looks like. 

Datacom offered the chance for the students to interact with a range of responsive technology powered by artificial intelligence. They could express themselves using movement and play games with the interactive screens, and were able to talk with and ask questions of digital person, ‘Lola.’ 

Students at Datacom
At Datacom, the students enjoyed interacting with AI-powered responsive technology and digital person, 'Lola.'

Lollies, games, quizzes, prizes – and even a dance off – made the day all the more engaging for the students, who soaked up plenty of new knowledge as they experienced first-hand the endless possibilities of technology. 

Between rotations, they enjoyed lunch in the sun on the Harbour Grounds green. The trip happened to fall during Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, Māori language week, and some of the kids joined in on a kapa haka that had been organised for the occasion. 

Students at Datacom
The children enjoyed lunch in the sun between rotations, and ended the day back at Datacom, where they shared their learnings.

As the day came to a close, everyone regrouped at Datacom to share their favourite parts of the day and what they learnt, before thanks were exchanged, and the children headed back on their way to their Mount Wellington school grounds.  

Inspiring the talent of the future

Together, Datacom, Air New Zealand, Microsoft, and IBM wanted to inspire learners and show them that they have a place in technology, says General Manager – Futures and Insights, Midu Chandra. 

“There is a never-ending range of roles that exist in tech, and all of them require skills like creativity, empathy, and collaboration, which the kids can recognise in themselves. This was a way to show them where those skills can take them, that they might not otherwise have considered.” 

“Hopefully we inspired them like they inspired us – it was really powerful to meet the future of tech in Aotearoa. Having rangatahi in the building really lifts the energy and creates a special buzz. We loved it and hope that we can have more of these kinds of events soon.” 

Midu says Dan Te Whenua Walker, Global Co-Chair of Indigenous at Microsoft, was integral in bringing everyone together to make the day happen.

“Working with changemakers – Dan from Microsoft, IBM’s Alan Nehemia, Melanie Paul from Air New Zealand, Stanhope's Principal Jesse, and all of their teams, it’s been moving to see how much support is out there in the tech community for young talent, and what we can achieve when we come together."

Students at Datacom
The students all agree their visit taught them that there are more diverse roles in technology than they had previously thought.

For Jesse Lee, the visit was about planting the seed of possibility by showing his students that they can be a part of the world of technology.  

“What I hope the kids gained out of today was that exposure, that awareness, that they can become part of this awesome explosion of digital tech, because it’s what the future is leaning towards and what that looks like for them. It’s something that they can achieve," he says. 

One thing the students all agree that they learnt from their visit is that there are many different jobs in tech – more than they realised, and different ones than what they had previously thought. 

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