26 Aug 2014
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Can a digital workforce create 100,000 new NZ jobs?

Internet MANA has launched its election campaign, promising 100,000 new jobs and to make New Zealand a digital workforce.

At the official campaign launch in Auckland, party leaders Hone Harawira and Laila Harré outlined strategies to create jobs through initiatives based on the party’s belief in the Right to Work and a new nationwide objective of Full Employment.

The plan is to create 50,000 permanent jobs and up to another 50,000 shorter term jobs a year over the next five years through initiatives to tackle youth and long-term unemployment and develop a digital technology workforce.

“There is a need to act rapidly and on a large scale to provide meaningful work in communities and to develop a digital and technology savvy workforce on which our economic future will depend,” Harré says.

“We will resource job-rich, community economic development initiatives, short term job creation and a significant plan for the development of a world leading digital industry workforce."

According to Harré, the “job-rich community economic development initiatives and short-term job creation” will cost $1.3 billion per year while funding for the Right to Work Force and Digital Workforce initiatives will come from redirecting a portion of ACC reserves and existing employer and earner levies to a new social insurance fund.

Digital workforce

Internet MANA also promises a shift into the future of digital technology, claiming it will invest in the development and expansion of the digital workforce to support this priority.

Harré believes this needs a “New Zealand Incorporated” approach, with businesses, communities, non-government organisations, schools and tertiary institutions involved.

An early Ministry priority will be developing a Digital Workforce and Employment strategy and an average of $400 million will be available each year for five years for implementation. The aim of this funding will be to develop the ICT workforce and support new employment opportunities in the Technology Sector.

The report also states that priority will be given to addressing current disparities among Maori and non-Maori, women and men in entering the digital workforce.

Immediate initiatives to develop the technology workforce will include a $5 million a year to award 500 “ideas grants” of $10,000 each to encourage entrepreneurs to develop ideas, build prototypes, and prepare to seek seed funding.

New Zealand Venture Investment Fund Limited (NZVIF) will be given establishment capital of $25 million for a new Social Enterprises Fund with success in this area to be measured on social rather than financial outcomes, says Harré.

Harré adds that while there are start-up communities "thriving all across New Zealand," university-centred innovation hubs need to be attached to every major university, modelled on the Stanford Research Park in California and the Cambridge Science Park in England.

The hubs will initially focus on sectors Callaghan Innovation has determined are areas of deep expertise – electro-mechanical systems, software, agri-tech, food technology and biotechnology

Plans are also in place to initiate ICT apprenticeships (public sector, private sector and community-based) to develop a clearer pathway for non-university careers in the information technology field, while encouraging school children to get greater exposure to careers in the digital economy and learning how to code.

Harré says additional support for tertiary level ICT education will also be available, which will "complement the introduction of free tertiary education and universal student allowances to lift the number of graduates and post graduates working in the digital economy."

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