Fusion Networks Announces IT Internship Pilot
A New Zealand first for a co-created digital learning programme
How do you solve the conundrum of getting young people out of school who are digitally trained and into a career that involves technology when they haven’t had any experience? We’ve cracked that nut.
The Fusion IT Intern Pathway is a new innovative programme from Fusion, co-creating digital learning to prepare young people for the 21st century workforce.
It’s is a three-way partnership between Tamaki College, the first full digital learning secondary school in NZ, the Manaiakalani Education Trust, the award winning programme that’s transforming student’s education in low decile schools, and Fusion Networks.
Kiwi IT company Fusion is used to solving complex IT issues with agile thinking. When Tamaki College challenged Fusion to find a way to help students build a career in technology, Fusion looked to change traditional academic learning with hands-on and practical focused workplace experience. The mix was a key factor for a company like Fusion, which had discovered that graduates that hit the workforce with hands-on practical experience are confident, and high performers in the workplace.
Andrew Gurr: “We became involved in Manaiakalani very early… working to design ways to ensure technology supports digital learning.
“We’ve had challenges finding the right staff as the Manaiakalani programme has grown. By chance we discovered that staff with experience in schools fresh out of tertiary training were just as capable and proficient as senior IT engineers.”
The Fusion Intern Pathway was born, with a goal of creating future IT employees from within the Manaiakalani communities for the Manaiakalani programme.
Once they leave school Tamaki students gain formal tertiary qualifications whilst working for Fusion part-time, their on-the-job mentoring compliments their education; connecting all the pieces into a robust combination of knowledge, work experience, and income straight out of school.
How does the Internship Pathway work?
At years 11–13, students from the Manaiakalani clusters who are interested in a technology career, can begin their journey in the Fusion student programme, called The Fusion Intern Pathway, a tiered programme fostering students interested in technology from early stages in school.
Fusion and Tamaki have co-created a series of NCEA programmes based on NZQA standards for the Intern Pathway. The programmes are designed around Fusion’s activities and skills in school, and delivered inside school grounds jointly by Fusion and Tamaki. Fusion concentrates on supporting learning with practical hands on training designed specifically around the NCEA programmes, whilst Tamaki manages students whilst they complete self-driven workbooks that focus on learning theory. The initial programmes focus on the base technology subjects, with the intention of adding more specialist subjects into the future.
This joint delivery of an NCEA programme is intended to provide engaging and tactile learning for students, enable schools to deliver technology courses in-house they don’t normally have teaching skills for, whilst leveraging the on-site resources schools are already paying for.
Students that excel in the Intern Pathway’s NCEA programmes will be invited to move onto the full Fusion Intern Pathway, becoming employed by Fusion part-time whilst they continue onto approved tertiary training in Technology Diplomas aligned with Fusion. Students will be mentored and personally trained by the Fusion team, gaining invaluable practical experience improving their ability to gain future employment with Fusion or into the wider technology industry.
“Our students didn’t initially have an idea of where they wanted to go with the study of digital technologies, but working with Andrew Gurr and his team we’ve framed that for them. Now what they are learning at school, they can take with them into the future.” Tamaki College Assistant Principal Russel Dunn.
Meet the first Interns
Last year they were students at Tamaki College. This year Arahura and Leroy have begun a new journey as the first Fusion Interns, where they are being mentored and trained on the job. The Interns are in some ways an old practice, linking practical experience with tertiary learning, but with the objective of accelerating their vocational pathway to becoming competent technology employees straight out of tertiary training.
The Tamaki students gain their formal tertiary qualifications attending nearby Techtorium during the mornings, and complement their learning with on-the-job mentoring by the Fusion technical team; connecting all the pieces into a robust combination of knowledge, work experience, and income.
“I’m 19 years old and I went to this school, Tamaki College. When I was at school I really wanted to do IT. I did a Level 5 Diploma at Techtorium. Now I’m working towards my Level 6 and I’m an apprentice IT Technician. They placed me here in Tamaki to learn with Raj who is my boss. I work with Raj and he gives us jobs to do, as we would out in the real world… We learn skills. This means a lot to me – it’s putting me where I want to go… so I already have the experience and I could just get hired like that in any company… or stay with Fusion…”
“Working for Fusion. That would be pretty crazy. Straight away into a first job…I’m rich now…saving for a car…” says Arahura.
“My name is Leeroy Pohatu. I’m an ex student of Tamaki College. I’m fixing computers and putting them back together again, it relates to the stuff I’m doing at Techtorium at the moment. I’m pretty confident in what I can do now, I’m sure my skills are going to skyrocket, just like that…”
Raj Sharan is a Systems Engineer for Fusion and he looks after all of Tamaki College’s IT needs. Now he has a new role added to his existing responsibilities, becoming a mentor to the two new Fusion Interns.
He says: “It’s been a new challenge for me as well. It’s a unique thing we are doing; I don’t think there’s any other company doing this. As we grow the number of schools we are supporting in the Manaiakalani digital learning programme we will need more IT people, and we are providing the shortage in these skills for technology.”
“Working with Fusion has really changed the way our school operates. In the past we would have a staff member running our network. Then Fusion came along and changed the way we manage IT. It now has a more corporate way of being operated, it’s a lot more robust and reliable.”
“Now the Internship that is being offered is taking that relationship to the next level, as we can put kids on a vocational pathway to a career in the IT sector. Our students didn’t initially have an idea of where they wanted to go with the study of digital technologies, but working with Andrew Gurr and his team we’ve kind of framed that for them.” he says.
Internships a new strand in the Manaiakalani Programme
The Manaiakalani digital learning programme is transforming education in low decile schools around New Zealand. Beginning in Auckland schools initially, the programme has been prototyped and tested, and is now rolling out to intermediate and secondary schools
The Manaiakalani Education Trust supports parents to buy a personal digital device for each learner, provides WiFi at home and school, and supports the teachers. The Trust was formed in 2011 and is supported by philanthropy, the government, and businesses like Fusion.
Pat Snedden says: ”We discovered from the beginning that what made Manaiakalani work was that was an amalgam of our partners. Fusion is one of those partners. We had to have reliable infrastructure, a one source of truth where people could go when things weren’t working in their school.
We adopted Fusion, as they seemed most aligned with what we were trying to do in Manaiakalani.
“Fusion MD Andrew Gurr has supported the programme from the inception both in philosophy and in taking responsibility for the enabling infrastructure, and training to set it up and maintain it. Andrew wanted to take his commitment a step further.”
How do you solve the conundrum of getting young people out of school who are digitally trained and into a career that involves technology when they haven’t had any experience? We’ve cracked that nut. The Intern process is just the latest innovation… I’m sure it won’t be the last we are actively working about on!
“We’ve got Fusion working with the secondary schools around the country who are in the Manaiakalani programme, offering the opportunity for kids at the end of their schooling, to connect with this employer, to have on the job experience to understand what its like to work in a corporate environment, and to actually experience some success and getting some training which will enable them to be very much more employable when they leave school,” says Pat.
“Our analysis in the marketplace with commercial firms we’ve talked to, is that the typical incubation for a young person is 3 years before they can get a job in a Tech firm. We think that’s nonsense. This Fusion Intern Pathway is out first step in speeding that process up,” he says.
A vocational pathway
The combination of Fusion, Tamaki and Manaiaikalani is a fine example of co-creation of vocational pathways.
The Internship has been co created with the expert guidance of Pippa Lawlor from Mint Education NZ, it’s a win: win for a new type of vocational pathway that delivers practical results and a real employment pathway into the IT industry.
Pippa Lawlor has been working with the team from the beginning. She is a respected professional in building such programmes and student assessment.
Through understanding the school, curriculum and workplace digital learning needs, she has defined the fit-for-purpose strategy and its delivery, parallel to the Government’s Vocational Pathways programme, yet ideally suited to the ICT sector requirements.
The programme is not without its challenges.
First up, Fusion Networks staff who are the Intern mentors have had a lot of learning to do.
Fusion needs its staff to embrace the programme as they will be the ones supervising the Interns. Gradually the concept has crystallised after months of work. It took time to understand how to use practical on-the-job learning, and mesh it with school study to align and deliver NZEA credits.
Managing the Manaiakalani Programme into schools around New Zealand
Matt Elgar is in charge of the Manaiakalani technology programme in schools, managing the Fusion engineers who run the programme in each school, and supporting principals and teachers who embrace and deliver the Manaiakalani way of learning.
He says the Fusion IT Intern Pathway is being prototyped in Auckland at Tamaki School, in preparation for its rollout around New Zealand.
“What we want our Interns to come out with is the technical background, but also hands-on experience using the technology with other skills, such as communication – how to deal with teachers and principals, how to fit in to do a good job at the school they will be employed at, beyond the theory.
IT skills shortage an industry-wide problem to address
Andrew Gurr says as the partners were working together figuring out the right Intern model with Tamaki College, he was challenged himself about what hiring staff was all about…
“Previously I wouldn’t look at an applicant who didn’t have any experience. Now I understand it’s a sector problem – we don’t want to hire people who don’t have experience yet we aren’t prepared to give them that experience.
“I think it’s an industry-wide problem for any sector. We have a responsibility to give students the experience that we’re expecting them to have when they turn up asking for employment.
“So my aspiration for this programme is to challenge the way employers look at creating their employees. We should all be part of an integrated training programme with tertiary.’’
“And the best part is we can develop the future work force yet at the same time give back to communities we are looking after, as part of our commitment to the Manaiakalani programme,” says Andrew.
“The Fusion Intern Pathway is a practical response to real community need, particularly for students from less privileged communities when it comes to access to education. The community focus on this programme is the right thing to do. It makes sense to us that we’re being employed to work in these communities to support the IT. We’re working in communities, we’re finding interns and developing students, and we are supporting hopefully a cycle of wellbeing.” Andrew Gurr
For more information
The Manaiakalani Education Trust was formed in 2011 and is supported by philanthropy, the government, national and local businesses, including Fusion Networks.
For More Information About Manaiakalani Education Trust
About the Manaiakalani Education Programme and Outreach Clusters
About Fusion Networks
Fusion Networks helps clients on their technology journeys across a range of digital solutions. Fusion expects high performing IT systems and networks as the norm, not the exception, and works with clients to deliver proactive, flexible and cost-effective services. A kiwi-owned business, Fusion commits to bringing the right mix of intelligence to bear on problem solving, and the rapid resolution of any critical issues keeping the business running.
Fusion engineers manage Manaiakalani school ICT programme across New Zealand. The unique digital learning programme focused on 1:1 on-line learning, began in 12 low decile schools in the Tamaki / Glen Innes area, and expanded to over 50 schools. The programme expanded in Auckland with Ako Hiko cluster in Mt Roskill in 2015, then expanded to three other clusters in the West Coast, Hornby in Christchurch and Papakura in Auckland.