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Supporting Māori into a career in health data science

The field of health data science is growing rapidly in Aotearoa New Zealand. But while demand for data scientists is high, there’s a shortage of Māori data scientists coming through the training pipeline.

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The field of health data science is growing rapidly in Aotearoa New Zealand. But while demand for data scientists is high, there’s a shortage of Māori data scientists coming through the training pipeline.

Andrew Sporle – a co-director of the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge and a member of PDH’s Independent Advisory Group – wants to change that. He believes supporting more Māori to study data science and get practical experience at the same time is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

“We need a career development ladder for Māori students,” says Andrew. “Data science is a new environment that’s developing quickly, and we need to build the first few rungs on the ladder to build Māori quantitative research capability, and show a career path.”

The highly successful Health Research Council (HRC) Māori workforce development scheme is an example of a similar successful scheme, but Andrew believes there’s a need to create a scheme that focuses on health data science, analytics and statistics.

It also needs to focus on recruiting students early in their academic career, to support retention in courses that build students’ quantitative skills and are foundational to further study in data science and statistics.

Andrew says: “In the Māori workforce, there aren’t the science students coming through to take up PhD positions that are available, because there are very few Māori students doing the quantitative sciences at a higher undergraduate level.”

“We need to develop capability to encourage more Māori students to choose data science, demonstrate that it can be a rewarding career option and to support them on their journey.”

This could potentially take the form of scholarships, summer and semester internships relevant to their study, and a mentor who will support them for the duration of their studentship.

Andrew says: “What we find is Māori students end up having to get jobs that can be somewhat distracting from what is actually quite a hard course of study. The idea is if they’re going to have a job as well as study, let’s see if we can align that job with what they’re actually studying.”

“How do you develop a workforce really quickly? Have as wide a gate as possible, to pick up students early on in their career and offer them not just a summer studentship, but offer them support including funded work experience.”

“They’ll carry on with their studies, and they could potentially get a studentship for summer, and a part time job during the semester – this would provide ongoing support which crosses academic years.”

For any organisations or individuals who are interested in discussing this opportunity further, please contact Andrew Sporle andrew@inzight.co.nz.

For any organisations or individuals who are interested in discussing this opportunity further, please contact Andrew Sporle andrew@inzight.co.nz.