Edwina Mistry, industry and community engagement manager for the faculty of business and IT at the Manukau Institute of Technology, is on a mission: to encourage high school students, particularly those from South Auckland, to study further and train for a career in information technology.

Three years ago, she started Business Career Experience or 'Experience IT in the Real World' program, where she brings students to different corporates where they talk to members of the IT department, ranging from help desk teams, project managers, to CIOs.

These students would not normally have the opportunity to visit a large organisation and see first-hand how it works, says Mistry.

"There is constant talk of skills shortage in the IT industry, by supporting this event, CIOs are participating in an event that will encourage more students to consider IT as a career, which will indirectly help with the skills shortage in the coming years," says Mistry.

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This year, 46 students have been chosen by their schools to participate in the program next week. More than 20 businesses, including IT vendors, are opening their doors to these students. These companies include Vodafone, Foodstuffs, SAP, Orion Health, Air New Zealand, Westpac, Microsoft, Cisco, HP and Fuji Xerox.

"Our objective is for students to come away understanding that working in IT is not all about computers or programming, and it can be fun. Many people in IT didn't study IT at school or university and have wide variety of career opportunities, interesting lives and high earning potential and that IT plays a fundamental role in every type of business," says Mistry.

Industry consultants train the students in interview skills, act as mentors to the students on their interviews, facilitate the event, and provide mentoring through the creation of their presentations and Web pages.

"One of our goals was to encourage students to educate their parents and family about IT and help them to be comfortable with the career opportunities that were out there," says Mistry.

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We are currently looking at how the Business Career Experience can be expanded in terms of numbers or locations including Wellington, says Mistry.

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