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Children from a marae-based computer coding club showed off their skills to a Government Minister when she visited Whangarei last week.
Louise Upston, Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment and Minister for Women, was impressed by the youngsters who are being taught coding through a unique partnership between Pehiaweri Marae, NorthTec and Kamo High School.
She was joined by Whangarei MP, Dr Shane Reti, when she visited Kamo High School, where NorthTec Research Educators based at the Glenbervie marae are also teaching coding to a class of teenagers.
Minister Upston was invited to Whangarei by Nigel Studdart, NorthTec’s STEM project team leader. The STEM project encourages education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The coding club evolved from a discussion with the Minister on a visit to NorthTec’s Kerikeri campus in 2015, and is a response to the need to find novel ways to advance the involvement of girls in technology.
Minister Upston told the group, which included Kamo High School Principal, Jo Hutt: “You are going to be the teachers today because you are going to teach me some stuff that I had no idea about. You will find everywhere you go you will be teaching grown-ups like me. You should always operate from the knowledge that you will know more about technology than the grown-ups around you.”
Thanking all those involved for their passion, energy and courage in attempting something different, she said: “I think what is happening here in Kamo and Whangarei, with NorthTec, is something that is going to have an amazing impact on New Zealand. Your marae is the first, not just in New Zealand but in the world, to have a coding club.”
Dr Reti spoke about his passion for computer coding and technology, and said: “This is a really exciting venture – a computer coding club in a high school that has a kaupapa Māori environment.”
He told the children that currently, university-trained coders can earn $50,000 to $60,000 in their first job. Careers open to good coders also included IT project management, cookie management, application management and quality assurance.
He added that Whangarei was great place to be learning about IT, because it is circled by high-speed internet fibre: “There is real opportunity here in Whangarei to learn and develop those skills.”
Nigel Studdart acknowledged the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Vision Mātauranga fund, which had provided a grant enabling the project to go ahead. The fund is aimed at unlocking the innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources and people. The project was developed by NorthTec to provide digital skills in the community and enhance the development of digital Te Reo as a living language.
Nigel said that in addition to the first marae-based coding club, an application development team focusing on innovation was starting at Pehiaweri Marae, and funding was also being sought for a 3D coding club and Virtual Reality Environment. All these skills offered great employment opportunities for the future, he said.
The projects are aligned with NorthTec tertiary programmes, contributing to Northland’s future IT workforce, and there are plans for the coding club project to be rolled out across New Zealand, based on the NorthTec-developed model and research.
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