Nearly 400 delegates to this year's TechEd have signed up to mentor 14 to15 year old students from across New Zealand, and encourage them to work in information technology.

Paul Muckleston, Microsoft New Zealand managing director, said he is confident they can meet the target of at least 500 mentors before the conference ends today.

TechEd is Microsoft's annual four day conference for developers and IT professionals. This year, Microsoft called on the more than 2500 delegates to pass their tech skills on to the next generation of New Zealanders.

Microsoft had invited the High Tech Youth Network (HTYN), which provides digital technology training for students, to set up a 'Tech Shed' booth at the conference. Tech Shed is a mentoring program that connects HTYN members aged eight to 25 with technology companies and business networks.

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Early this year, Microsoft provided a $1 million grant to support the group's High Tech Youth Studios in West Auckland, Manukau City, Hamilton, Tauranga, Moerewa (Northland) and Whakatane.

Muckleston said the centres let students from mainly low decile neighbourhoods work on multi-media projects after school, and plan to provide training for industry recognised certification.

"To date, the HTYN has helped provide skills for more than 7000 young New Zealanders who are now going to be future industry leaders," said Muckleson.

However, he said, "There are currently around 10,000 job vacancies in the wider IT industry in New Zealand, and this is only going to grow."

He said the program and IT industry mentors can help ease the skills shortage, as well as increase the representation of Maori and Pacifica in the technology sector.

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Mike Usmar, CEO of the High Tech Youth Network, said mentors play an important role in the work they do with families and the wider community. "There are many ways IT professionals can mentor in our network -- whether it be through virtual connections, regular in-person support at our studios or by sharing their knowledge at one-off workshops."

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