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Microsoft donates $625,000 to give Kiwi youth a head start

By Catherine Knowles
Thu 21 Apr 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

NZ’s High Tech Youth and OMGTech! groups have received Microsoft grants of a combined value of $625,000 in cash and software, that will help them give young Kiwis a head start in technology careers.

The donations will go towards providing computer coding, programming and software design and development training in dozens of schools and communities across the country, according to the groups.

OMGTech!, led by founder Dr Michelle Dickinson (AKA Nanogirl), say they will use their grant to run an eight-week programme for girls in nine schools to inspire and encourage these young women to consider careers in technology.

Similarly, the cash and software grant to High Tech Youth will support their Academy programme, which provides high quality, industry relevant education and training services focusing on the high tech sector to Māori and Pasifika youth aged 16 to 19.

Dr Michelle Dickinson says the grant for OMGTech! will go a long way towards helping them reach the organisation’s goal of breaking down the barriers to enabling young people to access future technology today. 

She says, “Coding is the language of the future as technology enables more New Zealand businesses to thrive in a digital global economy. We know that diversity is linked to greater financial success in business and so this grant will enable us to educate and empower underrepresented groups in IT and showcase exciting career options while laying a strong foundation for New Zealand's next generation.”

Mike Usmar, CEO of High Tech Youth, says the grant - the third it has received from Microsoft in as many years - will enable students from underserved communities who are enrolled in the Academy to gain both NZQA and industry credentials, something they likely would have missed out on without Microsoft’s investment. 

“Computer science education is not just about technology. It helps develop valuable transferable skills for young people, such as design thinking, working in a project team or self-directed project development and critically competencies around collaborative problem solving skills not only with young people from their immediate community but with over 3500 youth across the wider Network,” says Usmar. 

“Collaborative Problem Solving or CPS is the new Digital Literacy for 21st Century education,” continues Usmar. 

“CPS is being incorporated for the first time in the global bench mark for quality education through the PISA 2017 test for all OECD countries. Microsoft played a critical role in the development of CPS internationally, and High Tech Youth is proud to see New Zealand youth on the front foot because of the support of this grant,” he says. 

Barrie Sheers, Microsoft New Zealand managing director, says that he is proud to see the grants going to two such worthwhile initiatives that will teach computer science to youth.

“Young people who learn computer science education skills early will develop critical skills that will help prepare them for tomorrow’s economy, regardless of their career path,” says Sheers.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the skills they acquire from these local investments will help them as they go on to become influencers in New Zealand creating a competitive connected economy, and make an impact on the whole world,” he says. 

The announcement today from Microsoft New Zealand coincides with those made on 20th April by Microsoft Philanthropies, which has announced ‘YouthSpark’ grants and strategic partnerships with 89 non-profit partners across 35 countries around the world.

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