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The future is bright — Elevating Aotearoa’s Future

An apprenticeship programme, Elevating Aotearoa’s Future, moves toward a stronger Aotearoa through fostering and growing careers with Māori and Pacific peoples in New Zealand’s technology sector.

The funding round for 2021/22 is now closed.

To complement and inform the final round of applicants, Te Tari Taiwhenua’s (DIA’s) funding team is profiling 3 successful applicants from the 2020/21 round of funding.

The third recipient to be featured is a 12-month data and analytics apprenticeship programme called Elevating Aotearoa’s Future (EAF). It is committed to developing Māori and Pacific peoples as digital leaders and promoting diversity in the New Zealand technology sector.

We caught up with Evan Wilson (Head of Data Innovation at Qrious) and Hiko Cooper (EAF graduate) to find out more about the programme.

About the programme

The programme begins with a 10-week training course focusing on consulting engagement, business operations, design cloud-based technology delivery, and personal development — curated to prepare the cohort for positions as data and analytics consultants working in the public sector.

The focus of the EAF programme is on those without a tertiary education, to meet what has been identified as an ‘opportunity gap’ in the market.

Co-leads of the programme include representatives from DIA’s Digital Public Service branch, Amazon Web Services, Qrious, and Talent Rise.

Among our Māori and Pacific communities are some of the best collaborators in the world — this is such a valuable skill for our tech sector.

Evan Wilson, Head of Data Innovation, Qrious

The first EAF cohort graduated in July 2021. They have now embarked on full-time roles in data and analytics teams at government agencies across Wellington. Participating agencies included the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), Stats NZ, Oranga Tamariki, Social Wellbeing Agency, and the Ministry of Social Development.

Further to improving the representation of Māori and Pacific peoples, EAF aims to promote human-centred skills — fundamental to success, but not often prioritised in training programmes.

“There are lots of people currently working in the sector that are good technically. We need more talent with natural empathy and well established relational and collaboration skills,” said Mr Wilson.

This year, the EAF programme was funded by DIA’s Digital Government Partnership (DGP) Innovation Fund, which aims to grow capacity for innovation and innovation funding within the public sector.

Case study insights

  • The development of the EAF programme demonstrates the value of investing in people. This contributes to a public service that reflects future needs and capabilities for New Zealanders.
  • Through the implementation of a cross-agency apprenticeship programme, the EAF team discovered that traditional recruitment pathways in the public sector were not flexible to an innovative employment programme. This highlights the importance of building integrated systems that are flexible to accommodate and encourage innovation. Insights gained from this pilot have already informed the development of new recruitment opportunities across agencies.
  • The EAF team understood that support from agency leaders is vital. This endorsement ensures adequate funding and support is available for innovation to take place at an operational level.
  • Driving innovation in the public sector requires collaborative problem solving. EAF was successful because the team shared key innovation milestones internally and across agencies, leveraging expertise from across the public service to mitigate challenges. The public service can deal with complexity better when agencies share and collaborate.
  • EAF would not exist without funding from the Digital Government Partnership Innovation Fund. The EAF team had a strong concept, but with no tangible way to fund a pilot, the project stalled. With innovation funding, they were able to take the first steps towards creating a viable programme to roll out across government agencies. This demonstrates the value of funding that can kickstart and test early-stage pilots and prototypes.

Interview with Hiko Cooper, EAF cohort

Hiko Cooper, from Wellington, is part of the first EAF cohort. He has recently begun the ‘in house’ part of the EAF programme as an analyst at NZQA. Hiko is of Māori and Cook Islands descent.

A cultural shift

I’ve had experience working in government and in technology and noticed that change is underway, for example there is much more te reo Māori.

But there doesn’t seem to be the same pathways or opportunities. There are social obstacles, both ends.

Having Māori and Pacific points of views coming from a bit further up — inputting into decision making — that creates better connections between an entity and a person from these communities.

Settling on a tech career

I tried art school and found it didn’t work for me. So, I went off the beaten track for a while and was a consultant. One organisation I started doing design work for gave me their IT work too. They moved me up to Rotorua. I was doing their tech, their design, their accounts. It was an amazing experience.

The value of Elevating Aotearoa’s Future

We’ve had access to incredible mentors from the very start — not only helping us navigate our roles but also connecting us with other people in the industry. Through talking to people I’ve started to understand a lot more about what is out there, and different things I might be interested in.

Understanding the outlook of someone who is a Chief Information Officer (CIO) has also been big for me. Normally I wouldn’t have access to a CIO.

The tech side — data cleaning and data engineering — has been great. Also, the project management piece. And I’ve been learning about cloud through the people I’ve been talking to.

Elevating confidence and careers

I am always so disappointed when I see people who have potential and don’t believe in themselves. Is it confidence?

I’ve met so many people who I think are extremely capable, but they stay very low profile — they do their job and go home. Whereas I could see them moving mountains.

With the things they come up with, the amount of benefit they could bring to the tech industry is huge. But it means stepping out of your comfort zone.

Key milestones

A summary of EAF’s key milestones:

  • With funding from the Digital Government Partnership Innovation Fund, we’ve run a successful pilot with 6 government agencies on board.
  • We created a bespoke 10-week training programme, working with international trainers to build a comprehensive skillset with our applicants who graduated as analysts in May 2021.
  • We’ve placed 12 successful Māori and Pacific candidates across participating agencies in work programmes until March 2022.
  • Thanks to this programme, we have people without traditional technical training working in prosperous careers in data and analytics. We’ve changed people’s minds about individuals and changed the lives of those individuals in the process.
  • We’re working on a dynamic future for Elevating Aotearoa’s Future, developing a Māori owned not-for-profit company to continue to grow our mahi.

About the fund

All New Zealand public sector organisations are eligible to apply for the Digital Government Partnership Innovation Fund with an overall budget of $5 million per annum.

The innovation fund is an initiative driven by the Digital Government Leadership Group, made up of 13 Chief Executives from across the public service.

Find out more:

Digital Government Partnership Innovation Fund

Read about other 2020/2021 innovation fund recipients.

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