It’s that time of year when those thinking about studying in 2016 are busy exploring the options available at Universities and Training Institutions around New Zealand.
Trying to juggle the balance between finding something that fuels the fire in their belly, but will still pay off and help land a great job at the end can be a trying task.
A recent survey of over 440 tech sector employers in New Zealand by recruitment firm Absolute IT showed that 56 percent believe industry specific technical qualifications were the most valuable credential a potential recruit can have under their belt, ahead of a University degree, IT Institute qualifications, and professional memberships.
“The nature of many tech roles in New Zealand is they’re skill specific and what employers are after is either hands on work experience or a specific technical qualification that shows you have put the time into becoming an expert in the field you want to work in,” says Grant Burley, Director, Absolute IT.
While these survey results point all roads to industry specific technical qualifications, Burley says it’s worth reading on to understand if that really is the best avenue for you at your current career crossroads.
“If you’ve already got some work experience and skills under your belt and want to apply these to a job in the tech sector, an industry specific qualification is a great way to get some hands-on technical skills and demonstrate your commitment to growing your career in tech direction,” he explains.
For those jumping into the tech world straight out of school, while our survey results might not reflect this, Burley believes a University degree is still a great place to start.
“A degree in computer science and possibly business, while fairly broad, shows your ability to apply yourself, complete projects and a bench marks your achievements,” he adds.
“From here you can build on your career with industry and skill specific qualifications,” says Burley. “It really is only in the later years of your career, as you climb the career ladder, that having a degree under your belt becomes key.”
The power of IT experience
For Burley, if you don’t yet have any tech work experience, while you’re studying build on your work story, go out and get some - paid or not.
“The comments from tech employers in our recent survey highlighted that often, above any form of education, experience is the key thing employers are looking for,” he adds.
“Pick up the phone and hunt out some work experience or an internship - both might lead to paid work in the long term.
“Even if they don’t, being able to list some hands on experience in your CV might just put you one step ahead of your competition and nab you your dream job.”
Unpaid IT experience
There are lots of organisations out there who need help with their IT, Burley explains.
“Volunteering New Zealand is a great hub of volunteer opportunities, profiling volunteer organisations throughout New Zealand,” he adds.
“Skills for Change is another volunteer jobs search engine but is more focused on web and IT opportunities. And time banks like the Wellington TimeBank offer a unique way to hone your skills.”
Furthermore, Burley believes there are also some “great programmes” like Summer of Tech that connect IT talent with New Zealand tech employers who help match IT students with IT companies needing to expand.
“And unlike most internships these ones are paid,” he adds.
What next? Have you considered a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)?
“In New Zealand we have loads of institutions, organisation and universities offering study options, but here’s something new you might not know much about, Massive Open Online Courses,” Burley adds.
“These courses are a direct result of tech industry innovation and are designed to prepare tech professionals for the workforce and upskill those currently working in tech jobs.”
As explained by Burley, Udacity is an educational organisation that offers MOOCs with a focus on low-cost computer and data science courses.
Burley says such online courses are built by industry experts like Google, Facebook, and mongoDB and are designed specifically to get tech jobs for their students.
“Udacity has offered courses for web developers, data analysts, programmers (and then some) since its inception, but now it’s offering more,” he adds.
“For each of the tech disciplines they cover they’ve established an online ‘nanodegree’.”
In addition, Burley says Mooctivity is an online library, or rather a search engine, of MOOCs.
“Using Mooctivity you can find online courses based on key course features like start date or subject area,” he adds. “Mooctivity also finds courses that are free.”