A milestone in the diversification of Queenstown’s tourism-dependent economy was reached last week.
Queenstown Resort College (QRC) — which has solely specialised till now in tourism and hospitality — launched its tech-driven machine learning course with a first intake of 11 students.
Approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the NZ-first course — which takes five months to complete — will grow work-ready staff for the tech sector.
‘‘This is a real cornerstone to making sure the tech sector in Queenstown can become sustainable,’’ QRC boss Charlie Phillips told Mountain Scene when announcing the course in May.
Local artificial intelligence guru Neil Jacobstein proposed the course when he was on former mayor Jim Boult’s regenerative recovery advisory group, formed after Covid border closures decimated the resort’s tourism industry in 2020.
He and local tech entrepreneur Roger Sharp then took the idea to Phillips and his academic director, Jacqui McLean, who didn’t need much convincing.
Sharp, who’s also formed the Whakatipu Hangarau Trust to develop, then implement, a strategy for Queenstown’s tech sector, says the
course is the first step in developing a ‘‘much-broader tech industry here’’.
‘‘It’s just so exciting seeing a first cohort enter the course.
‘‘Graduates from this programme will be in demand, they’ll do great work on attractive salaries, and their careers will be future-proofed.
‘‘They may even be able to stay in town rather than leave to find work — who would have thought this would be possible in a tourism town?’’
The course instructor is Pradeesh, who’s come from Otago University’s computer science department after submitting his PhD.
McLean says QRC’s fortunate to have someone of his calibre delivering the industry-relevant tech qualification.
The next student intakes are next April and August.