"You can give students the means to pursue a career in ICT but first they must actually want to go down that pathway," Roughton says. "The trip was successful in showing our girls how dynamic the industry is, and how varied.”
According to the industry, New Zealand is struggling to meet the demand for IT experts and is importing foreign expertise to meet this shortfall.
Initiatives at the school level, like this one, will help ensure that New Zealand is cultivating the high degree of digital literacy it needs for the future.
Intergen, the information technology development and design company, helped sponsor the college’s Silicon Valley trip in the hopes of encouraging further students into the industry because it too is finding it hard to source the right talent as it rapidly grows.
“We are taking on 15 graduates next year and would increase that if we could get more with the right skills," says Emma Barrett, Director of Solutions and Services, Intergen New Zealand.
Barrett says when it comes to encouraging new talent into ICT careers, the industry needs to start younger and do more.
“We need to help build a self-sustaining work base that supports an industry set for untold growth," she adds.
"We need to encourage our young talent to choose a career in IT by showing them how rewarding it can be, and bringing to life the opportunities available.”
Barrett's own path into ICT was more by good chance rather than good planning.
“I was doing a business degree at Otago – papers in marketing and economics," she recalls. "I didn’t consider IT until a friend recommended INFO101. It fitted with my timetable, and turned out I really liked it.”
McKeefry says that the trip to America has made her think carefully about her career and she has now developed a study ‘map’ to help her better plan for her future - she will be following the Vocational Pathway for Manufacturing and Technology.
“It’s definitely got me to hone in," she says. "I’ve used the Careers New Zealand website to help me work out what I need to do, like subjects where I will learn to write code or do programming.
"If I could do Commerce or a Computer Science Degree with cross over to creative papers – that mix would be my ideal.”
According to Roughton, girls such as McKeefry can now better influence their own futures.
"They know what qualifications they need and that if done right, there is an amazing future ahead of them," Roughton adds.