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Unlocking Tech Talent Through Internship Programs

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

To build a sustainable, local STEM workforce, rangatahi need training that helps them feel well-prepared for their future careers. Fusion Networks, an IT company with roots in Tāmaki Makaurau, supports students to transition into tech careers through their highly successful internship program.

Fusion Networks is on a mission to connect Kiwis to technology. As a rapidly growing business in a burgeoning tech sector, connecting kiwis to tech means new talent opportunities. Five years ago, they partnered with local high schools and training providers to build their paid internship programme, supporting Māori and Pacific rangatahi into tech careers while creating a sustainable workforce for its business.

Paid internships, apprenticeships or other 'earn to learn' programmes offer many benefits for businesses and employees. Interns get a taste of full-time work whilst being introduced to the field and gaining transferable skills. Companies benefit from fresh perspectives, build their professional brands, and foster a workforce with the specific skills necessary for their company or sector.

"Fusion Networks has given me a great opportunity to get a head start and an insight into implementing my studies in real-life scenarios. I have become more confident, communicative and a better problem solver in a working environment. The opportunity to work with multiple people and different locations is a big skill I have gained from this experience." – Taylor Hurst, Field Engineer Intern

Fusion's Education Team pioneered the intern programme, providing a junior level of IT support services to schools across Aotearoa, New Zealand. The programme offers an ideal two-way learning system that benefits interns and the company.

Three benefits Fusion has observed from the internship program:

1. Stronger employee engagement

Being a mentor to an intern is an enriching experience for a senior employee and helps to build stronger relationships between staff. Education Team leader Matt Elgar attributes his team's high employee satisfaction rates to the positive work culture that has grown directly from supporting the internship programme and seeing rangatahi thrive in their new careers.

"Lifelong learning through mentoring and mutual support for each other form the backbone of our Internship Programme. Our intern graduates make up half our team of Education Systems Engineers, now training the next generation of interns. The program has helped foster a close-knit team, more experienced to lead from early in their career. There is a loyalty to the programme and, for our engineers, an eagerness to help others with the same opportunities they received. It's a cycle of continuous support for students, schools and communities, with everyone benefiting." - Matt Elgar, Education Team Leader

2. Reduction in turnover

The company is building a loyal, highly engaged, enthusiastic team through their internship program. In a highly competitive labour market, Fusion Networks has been able to fill graduate positions fresh from their internship programme, and over 78% of them have stayed with the business in the last five years.

Leroy Pohatu, Education Field Engineer, started his journey with Fusion Networks in 2016. Fusion Networks supported his skills training while still studying at Tamaki College, offering a paid internship leading straight into a full-time job.

"The Fusion team have supported me from day one, allowing me to build my skills in the high school I attended and work in a familiar, comfortable environment. Now that my role has expanded to supporting schools in the suburbs I grew up in, it gives me a personal motive to help the schools that have taught me, my family, and friends". – Leroy Pohatu, Education Field Engineer

3. Savings in recruitment costs

While training interns is an investment, the returns are overwhelmingly positive and make good financial sense. Fusion now spends significantly less time and resources hiring external staff. Instead, they can primarily promote from within their growing talent pipeline.

"The success on the business side is undeniable. We've halved our HR costs." – Andrew Gurr, Managing Director.

Earn-to-learn initiatives can deliver long-term systems change in society. The business invests in interns to induct them into the company and train them to be more 'work ready' and efficient from the start of their careers. As a result, the interns feel more confident when entering the field and know whether the company is right for them. It also makes career pathways more accessible to those who otherwise might not have the financial support to pursue tertiary learning.

Taylor Hurst, Field Engineer Intern, says that the internship has allowed him "to jump into a full-time working environment. It has shown a road map of the fundamentals required for what's needed in the industry."

The employability skills learned through the internship program complement the learning that happens in classrooms. It is a valuable experience for technology students, giving them a kete of transferable skills that make them more work-ready after graduation. In this way, paid internships could help to build a more sustainable workforce for all businesses across the STEM sector.

How your organisation can support internships:

Fusion Networks spearheads Awhi, a nationwide initiative to connect more rangatahi with paid internship opportunities and available pathways. The platform is a bit like a match-making platform for careers. Students create a profile of their identity and soft skills to pair with businesses with similar values and skill requirements.

The initiative has a big goal: to broaden student understanding of their available opportunities and skill sets while providing businesses access to talent that aligns with their culture and operation for lasting, successful long-term employment.

As Fusion has experienced, bringing students into the business environment earlier speeds up learning. Businesses gain driven, skilled staff members who value the industry and their work.

To register your organisation's interest in being part of the Awhi programme, contact Andrew Gurr -

Other well-established internship programmes that might suit your business include:

For support to see if internships suit your organisation's community engagement strategy or advice and connections to create a programme suited for your business, contact STEM Alliance.

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