Priority One: Celebrating 15 Years of yia!

YIA 2021 Logo Horizontal-01

In today’s fast-paced business environment, fostering the growth of our young talent and nurturing innovation are paramount for sustainable economic development. This year, Priority One proudly marks 15 years of delivering the Young Innovator Awards (yia!) program. yia! represents more than just an internship; it’s an opportunity for rangatahi to cultivate critical skills for the Future of Work through the Design Thinking framework.

Yia! encompasses various stages, from entry development to submission, marking by innovation leaders, and culminating in a Design Thinking workshop for finalists, followed by a celebration evening. Winners of each category are then offered internships with local businesses, bridging the gap between classroom learning and real-world application.

Since 2022, our focus has been on expanding student outreach and enhancing opportunities for developing Design Thinking skills. For those unfamiliar, Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that emphasises empathy, creativity, and problem-solving. Participants in the yia! program gain essential skills such as problem definition, ideation, prototyping, collaboration, critical thinking, adaptability, and resilience.

These skills are not only valuable for designing products and services but also for addressing complex challenges in both academic and business settings. Mastery of Design Thinking equips individuals with the mindset and tools necessary to drive meaningful change and innovation in today’s rapidly evolving world, which is why we remain committed to supporting and delivering the yia! program.

In 2023, we took a hiatus from hosting the internship to realign the program model with the evolving needs and resources of our students, schools, and partners. However, in 2024, we seized the opportunity to enhance the program further. Our objectives included increasing access to Design Thinking for more students, creating a consistent and scalable experience, boosting exposure to local Design Thinking experts, easing the burden on our delivery partners, and strengthening connections with innovation networks in the Western Bay of Plenty.

Under the guidance of Clare Swallow (Mulberry St, Executive MBA: Design Thinking) and esteemed hosts from Beca, WOODS, StandTall, Tauranga City Council, The Shine Collective, and The University of Waikato, 30 students received expert insights into the application of Design Thinking in business and skill building. The challenges, set by portfolio leaders within Priority One, provided students with the opportunity to solve real issues facing our city.

The yia! program continues to serve as a catalyst for nurturing young talent, fostering innovation, and driving economic growth in our region.

We invite businesses to join us in supporting the program and embracing Design Thinking as a cornerstone for the Future of Work. Together, we can empower the next generation of leaders and shape a brighter future for our community.

Congratulations to all participants for their enthusiasm and innovative thinking. Ka pai!