By Peter Kerr 23/11/2015

There’s more than one way to bake the cake of “we don’t have enough developers”.

Universities produce some, polytechs some others. Many are self-taught.

Enspiral in Wellington through its Dev Academy has a fulltime nine week course that turns non-coders into people with digital development skills, ready for employment, open to much more learning.

Industry Connect in Auckland has taken another approach to upskilling people who don’t know much about computing, or do, but need a New Zealand context, into smart resources ripe for the digital environment.

Students in the six week programme attend a 6.30pm start for three hours, three nights a week. This is followed by a three month volunteer internship to sharpen their skills. The outcome that co-founder Andrew McPherson says is important, is that as new employees his former students are productive within the first week.

Andrew McPherson, co-founder of Industry Connect

McPherson runs Experieco, a software development company focused on building Cloud solutions.

He’s been around IT for 25 years, and is well aware of the ongoing shortage of development talent to fuel digital projects.

Industry Connect was co-started by Ray Lu. Lu, who with English as a second language, was employed by McPherson 12 years ago after he struggled for 15 months to find an IT job. In four years Lu moved from junior to senior developer, and went on to work for Air NZ and Datacom.

Lu had personally experienced the difficulty of new immigrants in finding the first, foothold, job.

This is one source of the 15-20 Industry Connect students in each course – often coming from overseas with a software degree, looking for permanent residence, looking to get a job in New Zealand.

Other intern backgrounds include:

  • People who did some software development work at university, but don’t have the skills to be market ready
  • Those with outdated programming experience, especially from a few years ago – wanting to get back into development
  • Returning to work mums (who have been developers before)
  • Mid-life career change people

McPherson says it is rare for an intern to have no IT background, though an electrical engineer and MBA student come to mind.

It’s student fees are $6000 for the course, with a $2.5k deposit. However there is also an ability to pay off the fee at $95/week once students get a job. Some scholarships exist as well, especially for Maori and Pacific Islanders with potential.

Interns, hard at work learning new IT skills

Interns, hard at work learning new IT skills

“We’re doing this because we’re passionate about the industry,” says McPherson.

“We can’t watch the talented people we meet struggle to get a start, while at the same time New Zealand has a shortage of the skills that we can teach them.”

“It is also hugely satisfying when people get a job.”

Industry Connect has been set up and established with no government funding – fees as well as Lu and McPherson’s inputs providing growth capital – has pumped out 150 trainees over the past 2 years.

The fact Industry Connect is meeting a demand is seen in the fact they’re expanding, about to take over a dedicated Auckland city site.

“To achieve scale, we need to be able to offer this training during the day as well,” he say.

“There’s lots of talented people out there. We’re just repurposing them and adding new skills.”