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Urban schooling

City Central’s Senior College

Study smart First year tips

Behind the camera

Graduates get the green light

Thursday, March 27, 2014





Lawrence Watt discovers help is at hand for first year university students.


Rebecca Barry Hill looks at low-decile high school students being paired with corporate movers and shakers.

A HUNGRY WORLD 6 EXPERTISE NEEDS KIWI Emerging global issues sent Lincoln University academics back to the drawing board.

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Study art do you dream of entering tertiary arts and design study but haven’t formally studied art or don’t have a current portfolio? The Whitecliffe 18 week foundation Certificate, a full-time, practical, studio-based programme designed for students with varying levels of ability, provides a creative environment for students to build skills and complete a portfolio. Before enrolling in the Whitecliffe foundation Certificate, savith Wadasinghe was studying science and maths papers. “i wasn’t inspired by what i was doing and wanted to restart what i was best at in school – graphic design. i needed a portfolio to apply to degree level study and after experiencing Whitecliffe

for the one semester programme i decided to stay for my Bfa. i am glad i did! foundation showed me that i was still passionate about graphic design and, in areas where i wasn’t confident, the programme developed my skills in drawing, painting, photography and other mixed media.” Current year 4 Photography student, Leigh Baber says “foundation gave me the opportunities i needed to develop confidence in my work, to step into further studies, to open my eyes to the vast potential within the creative industries, and to recognize where my place within this creative environment may be. applications for the mid-July intake at Parnell or Manukau studios are being accepted now.

A New Zealand Herald Commercial Publication EDITOR Greg Fleming WRITER Paul Charman DESIGNER Xanthe Williams COVER PIC of Senior College students Anna Dawson and Danny Cheng in the school’s film room. Pic Ted Baghurst The next ec2 supplement publishes 29 May 2014 EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES please contact ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES please contact Lee Tyrrell on 09 373 6400 extn 90776


Dionne Christian explores a small school tucked in the heart of the central city.

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The first year at university presents students with a new environment and many distractions, but, as Lawrence Watt discovers, help is at hand The first year of university is generally much harder than school. You have to study on your own and there are no teachers to tell you off if you miss a class. Subjects may be new. The bar is set much higher than your old school and lecturers’ knowledge is daunting. Arguably students may find university is comparatively harder than it used to be. Dr Terry Locke is Professor of Arts and Language Education at the University of Waikato. He says a university is in a vastly different realm to a New Zealand school. The NCEA system he says, “Is about “drilling students to ‘jump through certain loops.” University, by contrast, involves accessing bodies of knowledge. “It requires an attitudinal shift,” from what you were doing at school. For example, if you are studying poetry at university, you won’t just read a poem, you will need to read and understand about literacy criticism. And achieving university success involves selfreliance, the ability to plan, and being well-organised. In previous times, university students largely had to pick up learning, writing and self-management skills by osmosis. Exams could take on an atmosphere of ‘shock and awe,’ if you had swotted the wrong topics. Even today university has a brutality about it, if you hand in



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an assignment late, without getting an extension and receive no marks, or get 3.5 out of 10. Because many new students clearly have problems making crucial adjustments, universities now offer courses where students can learn basic skills like how to study effectively and how to write essays. Dr Marcia Johnson heads the University of Waikato’s Centre of Tertiary Teaching, a specialised unit that teaches students how to learn. Clients range from PHDs to bushy tailed ‘freshers’ many of whom have taken a knockback with a flunked assignment. The centre has a variety of short courses, and you can also just drop in during the latter term. “It’s academic literacy – it’s knowing how to be a student,” she says.  >



Not surprisingly, Dr Johnson says two groups who tend to better handle the transition to university are students who attend halls of residence (which provide some structure, as well as potential friends) and ‘mature’ or older students, who tend to have a good idea of what they want to achieve. Maturity can also influence a student’s ability to learn, Dr Johnson says. In some cases, it may be the best thing for a student is to pull out of university, do something else, then return when they are older.

“Because many new students clearly have problems making crucial adjustments, universities now offer courses where students can learn basic skills like how to study effectively” Dr Johnson bravely admits to her students that she flunked her first university course – History One – in her native country of Canada. She says telling the story helps students see there is a path ahead. She says that it is quite common to find a subject may not interest or suit you. “If you don’t like a paper, change it in the first two weeks. Don’t just sit there! It is a kind of empowering thing.” Students who don’t sit the paper’s exam, without pulling out, will find it on their academic record. Dr Johnson says many students move up a grade after working with them and over time, some have even progressed from a ‘C’ to an ‘A’. “Not talking about it,” QC Dr Johnson says, is the most common mistake

Many universities are encouraging first year students to team up with a “study buddy” or work together in groups.  Picture / Getty first year students make, after finding they have got a poor grade for an assignment. It’s crucial to “do something – go to the lecturer and talk about it,” she says. Paradoxically, some of the things that successful university students need to do,

do not involve brain power, but are about being well organised and motivated, the kind of stuff that anyone can do if they put their mind to it and are happy in their private and social lives. But to succeed, students need to come out of themselves and

realise that learning is not just about diligent solitary study. Hamish Cowan is team leader, Student Learning Services at the University of Auckland, which is under the umbrella of the University Library. Dr Cowan stresses students need to be proactive and take charge of their own lives. One of the harder things for some students though, is making that step to actively engage with teaching staff. Coming straight from school, it may seem to be daunting. As a result of research, Dr Cowan says, universities emphasize group-based learning much more than previously. They don’t mean just attending tutorials, they advise people to set up study groups, for example. “Isolation can work against the student, especially in the first year,” he says. “They are joining an academic community.” A reality of modern student life, says Dr Locke, is that today’s students have less time than he did, because students today may have two or even three part time jobs. It makes time management crucial. Dr Johnson says that time-old bad habit of asking for an extensions for an assignment, exemplifies a lack of time management skills. Dr Cowan says they teach students how to plan their day, their week, the term and the year and use online planning tools. Pre- exam ‘cramming’ is an age old practice that is part good, part bad. But Dr Cowan says the key is to avoid cramming is to “treat a university like a full time job, by planning ahead”. This writer has a couple of experiences from long ago. I did little swot for an exam I sat near the end of my degree. During that year, I had been unusually diligent, working strict nine to six days, rather than burning midnight oil and starting late. I passed the exam with a good grade. 



Rebecca Barry Hill looks at the First Foundation – an educational trust which has been pairing students from low-decile high schools with corporate movers and shakers From the outside, they’re streets apart. Morgan Meertens is a 19-year-old university student from Rotorua. Carron Blom runs an environmental engineering consultancy that deals in billion-dollar projects. But look beyond the age and experience, and the similarities are obvious. “She’s an engineer and has the same interests as I do which is really cool,� says Meertens of her corporate mentor. “We’re both into painting and art and her son’s a coach for the Breakers, and I like sports so sometimes we go to a Breakers game.� Blom is also well versed in the tertiary world, and is currently studying for her PhD in engineering at Cambridge. “She’s been through it, and studied the same things I have so she knows how it goes,� says Meertens. “Talking about it all has made it a whole lot easier.� It’s thanks to the First Foundation that the pair met. They now regularly Skype, catching up on how best to juggle studies and work. Or they’ll simply chat about life. “Perhaps the most crucial point of being a mentor is that relationship of trust,� says Blom, who for that reason, won’t go into the details of their catch-ups. “One of the other things is to talk about what ever needs discussion but otherwise just to be there. Hopefully some of the advice has been useful though.� Since 1998, the educational trust has been pairing students from low-decile high schools with corporate sponsors and mentors working in their field of interest, thereby providing advice and a financial leg-up for tertiary studies, and opening the door to relevant work experience.  Almost 400 scholarships have been awarded in that time, with a record 47 in the last year. In turn, the companies that get on board as sponsors get to see the benefits firsthand, as the students work in their organisation. Meertens applied while in her final year

at Western Heights High School, and was rewarded when two former students of the school returned, 30 years later. They were Winstone Wallboards general manager David Thomas, and former Placemakers CEO John Beveridge. Both companies are divisions of Fletcher Building, and Meertens is now doing paid work experience in the gib factory at Winstone Wallboards. For the passionate maths student, it was enough to sew the seed for a career in engineering. Meertens says she has no doubt she’d have made it to university regardless, but the scholarship has stripped away the financial stress. Her $20,000 scholarship has helped her make the move from Rotorua to Auckland, where she’s now based at the University of Auckland’s Huia Residence. She’s now in her second year of a five-year conjoint degree in engineering and science. “I realised engineering is not just about building roads and buildings. I always knew I could use maths in engineering but it’s so much more than what I thought.� First Foundation now awards yearly scholarships to students in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Whangarei, Rotorua, Horowhenua, Dunedin and Hamilton. The four-year programme includes paid work experience, networking and financial support from a student’s sponsoring organisation, advice and guidance from a personal mentor, support and development to help students make the transition from school to university and then into the workforce. Meertens is the first to admit she wasn’t particularly interested in having a mentor. A hard-worker and high achiever, she was accustomed to doing things on her own, the kind of student who never asked the teacher for help. Then she met Blom, the founder of environmental engineering consultancy Anguillid, who has more than 20 years’ experience, including oversee-

Morgan Meertens was able to relocate from Rotorua to Auckland to study an engineering and science degree thanks to a scholarship from the First Foundation. Picture / Ted Baghurst ing billion-dollar projects both here and in Australia. It’s early days yet and Meertens says she’s as yet not yet sure what she’d like to do when she’s finished. But she’s relishing the opportunities she’s had since joining Winstone Wallboards, where she gets practical, handson experience in the workshop. “The guys teach me anything they can.

It’s more general engineering stuff, which may not be what I end up actually doing. But I love the people. They’re really cool, very bubbly and always happy. And they’re really flexible so I can work it around my studies. I have more support than I ever thought possible. All my friends don’t get that and I’m really grateful.â€? For more information, go toâ€

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A hungry world needs Kiwi expertise Emerging global issues sent Lincoln University academics back to the drawing board. By Paul Charman The 50-year outlook for Planet Earth seems all bad. Many experts see us facing food shortages, decreasing bio-diversity, higher levels of pollution and unprecedented competition for land, water and energy resources. In short, as the global population edges closer to eight billion in the late 2020s, and as global warming heats things up, more humans will have to scrabble for fewer resources. But at Lincoln – one of New Zealand’s oldest universities – such challenges are seen as opportunities. The assistant vicechancellor (business development) Jeremy Baker expects that over the next few decades, New Zealand will be thrust into a



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leadership role in sustainable food production and care of the environment. “We couldn’t be better placed to make a positive difference in the world,” he says. “The land-based sector we serve employs 20 per cent of the New Zealand workforce and produces more than 60 per cent of our exports. “Over the next three decades we expect activity to explode, due to population growth and challenges in terms of environmental sustainability. The challenges of population growth are not just limited to feeding 10 billion people, think of the implications of living alongside so many people on this planet, for example, the additional sports and recreation facilities required.” He says New Zealand has an excellent track record in areas which will be of the highest importance during the coming decades. The world is worried over future food security. For example, China and India are so concerned they’ve quietly purchased vast tracts of land in Africa and elsewhere, on which to grow future crops to feed their populations. “New Zealand is an excellent food producer, but even if we pulled out all the stops, at best, it’s likely we’d only feed perhaps 20 million people. Certainly, exporting commodities will provide a significant portion of our future income, but there’s an even better living to be made through exporting expertise.” Several years ago, Lincoln University began to review undergraduate qualifications in the light of emerging trends of population growth, global warming, environmental and agricultural realities. Forty four majors were focussed down to just 26. The university decided core issues facing the world were: * Feeding the world, supporting the production of food, but also its marketing and

global supply chains. * Protecting the future, by protecting and enhancing the environment. * Living well, recognising that as well as freedom from hunger, poverty and disease, people need to have fun. “We looked through programmes developed over many years and did severe pruning, investing staff time and capabilities in the things critical to the future as we saw it,” says Baker. Degrees gained through Lincoln’s Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Faculty of Environment, Society and Design or the Faculty of Commerce, now addresses one or more of these core issues. Challenges of feeding the world, protecting the environment and fulfilling human aspirations are complex, requiring areas of highly specialised knowledge. “But we also wanted our people to have skills from each of these areas, because great challenges of the future will be addressed by teams (capable of communicating with one another) rather than individuals.

“Gone are the days that a strong grounding in a single area of science, or perhaps economics, was enough to succeed in your career. Our graduates need to be able to communicate with and understand specialists from other disciplines.” “We want our science people to understand business, and vice versa. We want them to grasp the social and environmental impact of work they are involved in. Joint courses and programmes, across all three faculties, are designed to achieve this.” The university’s core degrees – Bachelor of Agricultural Science; Bachelor of Science; Bachelor of Environmental Policy and Plan-



Lincoln University has reviewed undergraduate qualifications in the light of population growth, global warming, environmental and agricultural realities. Picture / Getty


ning; Bachelor of Environment and Society; and Bachelor of Commerce – are structured to include a range of inputs from each faculty. Because the issues of the future are seen as interconnecting, all Lincoln graduates will have studied issues behind land, people and economics. “Each graduate will receive a grounding in statistics and research because you can’t tackle the big issues without these skills,” says Baker. “An integrated programme called “Sustainable Futures” brings together students from the three faculties. We put them in groups and give them real problems to solve, such as how to allocate water on the Canterbury Plains. Every student becomes aware of competing needs from city dwellers, farmers, sporting people and fishermen. “Another challenge is to balance out the economic benefits of dairying, which is driving our economic recovery at the moment, with the need to proactively manage the environmental considerations that go with the industry. “Grappling with nuanced issues is the means we employ to get our graduates minds into the right place, to tackle the jobs they will be thrust into. It’s the kind of preparation needed ahead of an increasingly complex working world,” he says. “Gone are the days that a strong grounding in a single area of science, or perhaps economics, was enough to succeed in your career. Our graduates need to be able to communicate with and understand specialists from other disciplines. “Emerging problems facing our world are too big for any single discipline. To be successful, you’ll need to be capable of working and communicating with people from outside of your own area of specialisation.” 



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Anna Dawson, who wants to pursue law and psychology at university, says Senior College is one where students think it’s cool to excel in academic work. Picture / Ted Baghurst

A small school tucked in the heart of the central city encourages its students to think for themselves. By Dionne Christian When teacher Nick Duirs walked through the doors of ACG’s Senior College in central Auckland, he had the same reaction as many first-time visitors: it reminded him of the New York High School of Performing Arts where the movie and TV series Fame was set. It’s easy to see why. The school describes itself as a college with a difference – one that specialises in preparing students for tertiary study – and creativity and individuality are actively encouraged. The students, number-

ing around 260 in Years 11 – 13, don’t dance or sing in the corridors but their art and design work is displayed on every available surface while flyers advertise upcoming gigs by past pupils – like Indira Force who supported Lorde at her Silo Park show. “So many kids today are ostracised for whatever reason, but we celebrate difference and individuality,” says Senior College principal Kathy Parker. “It’s about becoming the best person you can be.” Housed in a four-storied heritage build-

ing in the heart of Auckland City, look from the window of one of its classrooms and you glimpse the St James, the Auckland Central Library, Aotea Square, the Auckland Art Gallery, shops, cafes and restaurants. It makes for an urban and urbane view of the world. Nine years since his initial visit, Mr Duirs is now Senior College’s award-winning music teacher and head of its Faculty of Arts. He joined the school in 2005 to teach music and geography and, last year, received an

Independent Schools Association Excellence in Teaching Award for services to eduation within the classroom and beyond. He worked in state secondary schools in Auckland and in Harrow, North London but hadn’t encountered a school like Senior College, which opened in 1995, before. He believes it’s a pretty special environment where students learn about the importance of independent critical thinking, intellectual endeavour, cultural acceptance and community participation along



What makes it different • Students are aged 15 – 18, no junior pupils. • It has smaller classes and longer school day (8.30am – 4.35pm) which allows for 80 minute long classes. • There are a number of free study periods a week which encourage students to manage their own time. • There are no bells. • It offers two international senior school qualifications – Cambridge IGCSE and AS and A-Levels alongside International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)

with how to express their creativity. “We work in partnership and, as teachers, we’re not about compartmentalising each subjects or their learning. We encourage them to make connections, to use all the resources available to them. We don’t see ourselves as the font of all knowledge.” This year, Senior College became the first in New Zealand to offer two international senior school qualifications – Cambridge IGCSE and AS and A-Levels alongside International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) – because it believes they are the best for young people moving into and working in an increasingly globalised world. Senior College doesn’t have a head boy or girl but school Head Leaders (this year it’s Anna Dawson and Danny Cheng) and a number of student-led groups such as the Arts, Social Awareness and Environmental, Social, Academic, Entrepreneurship and Publishing, and UNESCO Portfolios. But all this is not to say it’s informal; a point emphasised by school principal

Kathy Parker and deputy principal Graham Gottard who urge intending students not to think it’s casual or relaxed. “We set high standards and expect students to strive to be the best they can be,” says Ms Parker. “Students are given a higher degree of responsibility than they may have in other schools to manage themselves and they seem to enjoy and respect the extra trust we place in them. They live up to the expectations we have.” Mr Gottard says school rules are simple and straightforward and students know there are no exceptions to these or second chances if they break them. “We make it very clear what the consequences will be and knowing that actions have consequences is a very important part of growing up and becoming an adult,” he says. “We understand kids will be faced with choices so we talk frankly to them and openly in the hope they make the right choices.” Students support these sentiments. Katy Eichelbaum was Senior College’s 2013 valedictorian and the winner of its Leadership Cup. Now doing a science and law degree at the University of Auckland, Katy felt the systems at her previous high school were too rigid and didn’t allow her to study beyond her year level. “I was absolutely blown away by the Senior College environment because I could take greater control over my own learning and where I wanted to be,” she says. “The standards were high, but there were no competitive cliques or immature little friendship bubbles.” Year 13 student Gabriel Stuart Murray has taken advantage of an extension programme which has allowed him to do a first year psychology paper at The University of Auckland. Gabe’s contemporaries Danny Cheng, Anna

Award-winning teacher Nick Duirs heads Senior College’s Faculty of Arts. Picture / Ted Baghurst

Dawson, Ruby Cesan Douglas, Ted Bennett and Eden Shosanya also relish being given more freedom to extend themselves as well as develop time management skills, work collaboratively in smaller classes and be exposed to a greater range of real-world and experiential learning opportunities. Anna, who wants to pursue law and psychology at university, says Senior College is one where students think it’s cool to try hard in your academic work which is sometimes not the case at other schools. Ruby, the Arts Group leader, says it’s easier to speak up in smaller classes which have a non-judgemental atmosphere where people are open to new and different ideas. Danny and Ted talk more about the supportive relationship with teachers. Ted, who runs a tutoring programme to help fellow students who are either struggling or just want to better their results, says if you ask for help it will be forthcoming. “There’s also a great appreciation for everyone’s cultural identity because so

“Housed in a four-storied heritage building in the heart of Auckland City… it makes for an urban and urbane view of the world.” many of us have travelled or come from other countries,” says Eden, who heads the school’s UNESCO Group and was able to rally a third of its pupils to participate in a street appeal for the Red Cross. “It is a very respectful environment which, I think, is most suited to anyone who has a love of learning – and that’s not necessarily confined to academic subjects – and wants to start preparing for tertiary study.” ACG Senior Open Day: Saturday 5th April 10:30am – 2:30pm, 66 Lorne St, Auckland CBD (opposite Auckland Central City Library). Ph. (09) 307 4477 for further information. 



Despite recent setbacks the local film and television industry still offers great opportunities for young graduates. By rebecca Barry hill The fiLM aND television industry will always need fresh young talent, says the head of one of the country’s top film schools. south seas director Gerben Cath is the first to acknowledge that the industry has had a tough year, with Us TV production spartacus wrapping in 2013 and hundreds of experienced crew members finding themselves without work, before James Cameron announced three more avatar films will be made here. and while he acknowledges the heartbreak that caused many at the top end of the industry, he says there are plenty more opportunities for those just starting out. “The industry wants people with creative vision, who can work with others, brainstorm and come up ideas that are entertaining, informative and attractive. it needs young people because so much of it is youth-focused.” Cath says the diversification of media content has also led to an upswing in entrepreneurial activity. as well as the usual slew of graduates who proactively make short films, south seas alumni are increasingly setting up their own companies which in turn, employ new graduates. One example is Department of Post, a Grey Lynn-based post-production company which has worked on several top documentary and reality series such as Judy Bailey’s australia, Masterchef and New Zealand’s Got Talent. “They’ll find niche markets,” says Cath. “There’s an increase of live streaming of video, and new technology approaches. it means more young people are finding a niche in a bigger industry.” The bulk of TV and film workers in New Zealand are employed in production and post-production companies. alongside broadcasters TVNZ and TV3, Maori Television provides several opportunities for content providers as they make so many new shows each year. as for taking on new graduates, the best bets are sky Television and south Pacific Pictures, with many juniors at sPP starting out as trainees at shortland street. “We still get a lot of people who think they’re going to walk in and instantly be a producer or a director and it just doesn’t happen,” says south Pacific Pictures managing director Chris Bailey, which also makes top New Zealand dramas such as

Lydia Moore a graduate of South Seas Film and Television School, completed a Diploma in Film and Television specialising in editing and is now an assistant editor at Shortland Street. Picture / Ted Baghurst

“The industry wants people with creative vision, who can work with others, brainstorm and come up ideas that are entertaining, informative and attractive. It needs young people because so much of it is youth-focused.” – south seas director gerben Cath.

step Dave (and previously Go Girls, Nothing Trivial and The almighty Johnsons). “We need experience and getting to those areas is a long process. We tend not to take risks.” so how should eager graduates get a foot in the door? There’s no set route but Bailey

says ssP regularly looks at new applicants, zeroing in on those with potential and a good attitude. Many newbies start out as runners, a catch-all description for juniors who fetch, carry and do production odd jobs, supporting anyone who needs help until they learn enough to assume more responsibility. “Pitching in is a big thing in in the New Zealand film industry,” says Bailey. “you have to be prepared to make coffee, move a chair for someone, or help the design department. it’s important on a long-running show because you’re on set for so long you become like a big family. it can be tough if you’ve been on location for hours and it’s raining.” Bailey advises not to dismiss the fantastic careers out there for particular skill sets outside of the better-known glamour roles. sound recordists, boom operators, continuity or script supervisors, assistant directors and location managers are all highly

valued, the latter in particular because it’s a tough job requiring a wide range of skills. The “front door” of the company, a location manager must be able to read a script, understand the characters and what sort of houses they might live in, find suitable locations, liaise with the public, manage compliance and safety issues, work to a budget and ensure that if you’re filming an explosion in someone’s backyard, the neighbour’s fence doesn’t burn down. editors are also in demand, says Lydia Moore, 25, an assistant editor on shortland street. The south seas graduate decided to specialise in editing after watching her cousin, a camera operator, struggle to find work. she says south seas gave her great grounding as it’s set up much like a real production company, with each department collaborating on projects. Moore graduated in 2012 and started at shortland street in May last year, after showing her interest at several production companies and chatting with as many people as she could. she also agreed to work unpaid for the first half of the year. shortland street film the equivalent of a feature film each week, so the pay-off for Moore is a fast-paced creative job. she gets to know each director’s style, and works closely with her team of three other editors. “i love the complexity of the longer story format because you can get more in-depth into the characters and create a world they live in.” a large proportion of graduates find employment making commercials, media and promotional content, with only a tiny selection working on feature films. There are never job guarantees in any industry but south seas aims for an 80 percent graduate employment rate. The school offers an intensive, hands-on year of training in film, television, photography, on-screen acting, and a two-year course for animation students, capping its intake for the film and TV course at 180 a year. “Mainstream TV is suffering challenges because advertising is going down but the money is shifting elsewhere,” says Cath. “Change will always bring some concerns and challenges but if you ask people how they’re watching programmes, 80 per cent are streaming them online. young people want to be able to watch whenever and wherever they want, and that’s changing things and creating opportunities.”

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Digital boot-camp

As New Zealand’s burgeoning software industry is crying out for staff, entrepreneurs are trying to meet a need that isn’t being filled by tertiary institutions and recruiters. By Adam Gifford One approach is Dev Academy, a New Zealand version of Silicon Valley’s Dev Bootcamp. Academy co-founder Rohan Wakefield says it has recruited the first class of 20 students willing to pay $11,000 for an intense nine -week training programme that combines videos, books and tutorials with practical and group projects. The theory is that people learn better by doing and building, rather than sitting back listening. His initial idea was to address the industry’s talent shortage by changing recruitment practices. After discussions with employers like Xero, Trademe and Powershop, Wakefield and his partners concluded traditional recruiters match cvs to jobs descriptions, but ignore cultural fit and candidate motivation. A couple of weeks of alternative recruiting showed they were on the wrong track. “We went back to them and said ‘You didn’t tell us there was no one out there. We can take someone from Trademe and put them in to Xero, or take someone from Xero and put them in to Trademe, but that is not going to help you.” Not with the sector growing 9 per cent last year, according to Trademe job listing figures. That led to a closer look at training, and a trip to San Francisco to see the Dev Bootcamp in action. So far Dev Bootcamp has trained more than 1000 people, with 90 per cent getting positions within two months of completing the course.

The Dev Bootcamp, which originated in San Francisco, is now being run in Wellington. Wakefield says universities are producing clever graduates, but they can’t hit the ground running. “They’ve got good skills, but they are the wrong skills to cope from day one and fit into a team. “We find university trained graduates come out being very good mathematicians and very good clinical coders, but they can’t fit into a team because they don’t have communication skills, they can’t talk to a client because they have no idea how to listen and pick up a brief.” He says the right people aren’t being attracted to tech, because youngsters

see it as the domain of V-swigging nerds. And companies like Xero don’t just need computer science graduates. “Two really good degrees to have in tech are music and a BA in any other language than English. Those people seem to excel in this space.” “Dev Academy is looking for people with passion, an ability to learn and teach, an ability to work under pressure and an empathy and kindness in what you do. It would help to have a technology background, but it is not asked for.” Wakefield says he is talking with the Wellington City Council and others about scholarships and loan schemes so

students can do the course and pay back the fees when they start work. Xero chief executive Rod Drury says as his company’s headcount has grown past the 600 mark, it needs a wider range of skills. “Once the business gets to scale, you are not just doing hard-core development. You end up with a blended and diverse team, taking in things like international marketing, quality assurance, complex integrations and technical documentation. There are broader jobs you need to do as teams get bigger,” he says. While some roles need to be filled and done in overseas locations because of specialist expertise in things such as payroll, taxation or market knowledge, there is a cost advantage to the company in hiring within New Zealand. “We are getting a few kiwis who are attracted to the opportunity to move back home from places like Silicon Valley and still keep working on big projects,” he says. He says there is room to take on people who have been through programmes like Dev Academy and Google’s Summer of Code. Ari Sargent from Powershop says with huge demand in the market, anything that can foster new talent is to be welcomed. “Our last two senior developers have been hired from offshore. In a way Dev Academy can be categorised as an extended job interview. If you get through, the industry can find a place for you.” On the web 



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