Between the IT skills that are taught at tertiary level and the skills that are needed by industry, there can be a yawning gap into which graduates fall into. This is particularly true for those students \u2014 tomorrow\u2019s CIOs \u2014 seeking to combine tech and business careers in the ever-changing world of enterprise IT.\nThe Digital Skills Aotearoa Report released by NZTech this month shows that in 2019 there were 15,325 students enrolled across all levels of tertiary IT courses and 3,265 students graduated with computer science degrees.\n[ Learn from your peers: Check out our State of the CIO 2020 report on the challenges and concerns of CIOs today. | Find out the 7 skills of successful digital leaders and the secrets of highly innovative CIOs. | Get steady insights by signing up for our CIO newsletter. ]\nDemand for IT skills is high. A NZTech survey of 190 employers shows that collectively they will require 5,000 newly digitally skilled employees in the next two years. But the reality is that those job vacancies are often filled by overseas workers. In 2019, there were 3,683 visas approved for IT professionals to immigrate to New Zealand.\nWith New Zealand\u2019s borders shut due to COVID-19, NZTech CEO Graeme Muller says he has heard tech firms discussing the idea of joining forces and funding their own managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility to ensure that the flow of highly skilled IT talent in New Zealand continues.\n\u201cIt may seem like a quick fix, but it involves complex logistics,\u201d Muller told NZTech members this week. \u201cRecent Bloomberg calculations suggest it is likely to take seven years before the pandemic ends and international borders return to some form of normal. Considering the analysis, doesn\u2019t it make more sense to help grow local talent and upskill our own workforce?\u201d\nIT groups concerned about direction of vocational training\nA number of tech groups, including NZTech and IT Professionals, are working to establish a workforce development council (WDC) as part of a wider government reform of the vocational education sector.\nAccording to IT Professionals CEO Paul Matthews, the idea of a tech-based WDC would mean greater emphasis developing future skills, and more workplace learning through apprenticeships, internships, and other programmes.\nConsultation has closed, with IT Professionals banding together with NZTech, NZRise, and Aotearoa Tech Union, among others, to put forward a submission in which a WDC that includes digital technologies (IT, computing, digital, and tech) would also include the creative arts, hairdressing, sports, and recreation.\n\u201cWe support the grouping with creative arts as there is a strong link and bond between many aspects of digital technologies and many aspects of creative arts. However, the proposed groupings with the other areas of coverage are arbitrary and not in the interests of these industries or ours. Their future needs, structure, challenges, and focus are entirely different to that of digital technologies and creative arts,\u201d Matthews says.\nThus, IT Professionals is not supporting the WDC proposal as it currently stands, although Matthews says it is open to discussions on how the current situation can be resolved.\nBoth Matthews and Muller say they are meeting with chief executives from the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission this month to discuss digital skills training.\nUniversity of Auckland business school reaches out to CIOs\nWhile groups representing IT practitioners grapple with government initiatives to address digital skills, individual academic institutions, such as the University of Auckland, are looking at ways to bring IT and business closer together.\nIn recognition of the need to bridge the gap between industry and academia, professor Illan Oshri has rebooted the University of Auckland\u2019s Centre for Digital Excellence, which goes by the apt acronym CODE and of which he is the new director. Its mission is to become a leading research centre on digital technologies through ongoing relationships with industry, policy makers, media, and academia. \u201cThe idea is to combine the business knowledge with the technical skills that the university as a whole has developed over the years,\u201d he says.\nCourses that you might expect to be offered in the computer science department are instead taking place in the business school. Notably, a blockchain course that will be open to business and computer science students that teaches the practical application of blockchain technology.\nOshri says CODE is working with Tata Consultancy Services on developing the course, which will enable students to get hands-on experience with TCS\u2019s blockchain technology, including its core platform in India.\nAnother course, \u201cManaging with Artificial Intelligence,\u201d is more theoretical and will provide an overview of the different areas of AI, and their application in a business setting.\nOshri says boards are taking a greater interest in what technology can deliver for their organisations, and therefore the CIOs of today, and tomorrow, have a greater opportunity to understand, and then influence, the overall business direction.