Spark launches scholarship for women, Māori, and Pasifika

As the New Zealand technology industry grapples with a skills shortage, Qrious, Spark Business Group’s AI and data analytics specialist, has announced the launch of the Qrious Data Academy. It is a talent pathway initiative that includes NZ$1 million in scholarships for women, Māori and Pasifika. It aims to facilitate a pipeline of local talent into high-demand technology careers in the data analytics industry.

The scholarship programme will provide one year of on-the-job training, mentoring, and a pathway to permanent employment for up to 20 people per year in Auckland and Wellington, starting in late 2022.

The broader Data Academy programme includes opportunities outside the scholarships for women, Māori, and Pasifika, meaning anyone can apply.

NZ Tech research found that less than 3% of the tech workforce are Pacific people, just 4% are Māori, and 27% are women.

CEB research found that a diverse and inclusive team leads to a 12% improvement in discretionary effort and that staff are 20% more likely to intend to remain with their employer. In addition, the same research found that team collaboration and commitment increase by 50% in a diverse and inclusive workplace.

“The accelerated pace of digital transformation of New Zealand businesses has created a perfect storm, with demand for highly skilled talent in technology far exceeding availability. We know that the technology sector - particularly artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics - is set for exponential growth over the next few years. We want to play our part through an industry-leading programme that encourages, nurtures, mentors and upskills the next generation of New Zealanders,” says Evan Wilson, Head of Data Innovation, Qrious.

“Our search for talent is important to grow a high-impact pillar of our business strategy – spearheading projects of national significance. For example, we have partnered with veterinary scientists at Ingenum, using our smart AI and data analytics software to detect the early signs of potentially catastrophic livestock disease outbreaks. We need people from diverse backgrounds who might not have considered a career in tech to join us on this journey.”

“At Qrious, we have a strong view that while there is a skills shortage in the industry, we also need to tackle an opportunities shortage. So this Academy focuses more on creating opportunities and developing career pathways into technology.”

Participants will receive comprehensive on-the-job training, mentoring, and pastoral care, with a pathway to permanent or fixed-term employment, which could see them moving into roles such as data analyst, data engineer, or business intelligence developer.

Participants will start on annual salaries of at least NZ$60,000, 15% higher than the average graduate salary in the industry.

Applicants do not need tech experience to apply for the Academy's three programmes.

These include Scholarships (for one year). Under this, applicants must reside in New Zealand and be Māori, Pasifika or female. Participants will receive full-time work at a salary of $60,000+, on-the-job training, and a fixed-term or permanent job offer with Qrious after the programme.

Another programme on offer is summer internships for ten weeks. Under this, applicants must reside in New Zealand and be from all ethnic backgrounds, ages, stages, and walks of life, with a can-do attitude and a strong interest in exploring a career in technology.

The third programme is internal training for Qrious or Spark Business Group staff. Under this, training modules for those who want to up-skill and, or up-skill from other Spark business units, with the same mentoring and support provided to scholarship participants.

Applications for the programme can be submitted online.

Meanwhile, Qrious is calling on its partners, customers, and the industry to help source strong applicants.

“We want to hear from applicants who might be new to this world. We’re partnering with iwi, community organisations, and corporate partners. We will work with the Spark Foundation and Pūhoro, an academy that teaches a kaupapa Māori approach to STEM, on how and where we can find outstanding candidates,” says Wilson.