Stepping Stones to Dream Careers

Demonstrate your commitment through a clear plan, detailing objectives, strategy and delivery

We are an employer participating in DWP’s Kickstart Scheme through Kingston Chamber of Commerce. As an early year technology company, knowing that there were a large number of university graduates falling on social security for various reasons, we saw great opportunity in taking on such candidates, providing stepping stones, and preparing them for their dream careers in the wider IT/software job market as well as within our own business.

We have established teamwork systems and administrative provisions to cater for the Kickstart candidates in our business. We’ve plenty of R&D and Customer Project work that is suitable for them to participate in, with close supervision from experienced senior staff.

At the start of our participation in the scheme early in the year, we worked closely with Kingston Chamber of Commerce on a prudent plan which is to start with 2 candidates, then grow the total number gradually throughout the year.

Participating in the Kickstart Scheme is a big undertaking with significant demand on administration, supervision and technical leadership. Our key strategy has been to centre around individual candidates, give them work that helps developing their skills fast, they in turn make positive contribution to our business while working in a happy environment.

We started taking on 2 candidates in March, one of them successfully found another job and moved on after 3 months, the other one demonstrated the quality that we were looking for and stayed with us as a permanent employee after 6 months. We’ve since recruited 4 more, of whom 2 will be retained by us in the New Year, 1 looking for next job, and 1 new starter in the Kickstart Scheme. As we enjoyed the benefits and success so far, we intend to apply for a few more vacancies before the
scheme ends in December.

Demonstrate how the project has made a real impact for the young person / people involved

Software Development is a desired career choice for many university graduates, whether their major is in computing or not. However, many of them didn’t get any work experiences in software firms, and the COVID pandemic make things a lot worse. When young graduates fall on social security for various reasons, they are eager to, through the Kickstart Scheme, find opportunities that allow them to assert that a Software Development career is both realistic and enjoyable for them.

We have long time experiences building software development teams. We have established methodologies to assess young people’s existing capabilities as well as future potentials. We also have our unique set of tutorials of software technologies that allow starters from no software knowledge at all to having done years of coding to pick up essential skills from day one so that they can start to contribute in our software development work after a short induction.

As a growing technology company with large set of proprietary software products and ongoing customer projects, we have loads of work suitable for the Kickstarters to work on, no matter what their existing skill levels are.

From the beginning, we emphasise that it’s a real job working under the Kickstarter Scheme, so the young people experience the work culture from day one. Regular meetings and communications make them feel they are well cared for, and their work is really enjoyable.

One of the Kickstart candidates, who started with very little software knowledge gained so much skills so quickly through working with us, landed a dream software development job with a national TV company in three months.

Another Kickstart candidate who performed very well and saw the huge potential in our business accepted our offer to work with us on a permanent basis from September.

Provide details of the challenges faced and how they were overcome

The Kickstart Scheme present us with unprecedented opportunities of building up a software development team at our stage of business growth. There have been many challenges too. The most significant challenge is the demand of time to manage and mentor the Kickstart candidates. We tackled the challenge with sensible planning of work assigned to them so they can take their time to gain skills while doing work with minimum supervision.

Balancing Kickstart candidates’ skill development needs with our business priorities has been challenging at times too. When a customer project came to us, and we felt working on the project may benefit the young people, we negotiated with the customer for longer time to allow the young people’s participation. Positive results came out after we met the challenge, as the young people’s talents were reflected in the project outcome which was well received by the customer.

Working with young people has its own intrinsic challenges too. More patience is needed when dealing with work quality issues and passing knowledge of good practices to them. Young people like to have a go with tackling difficult issues. Encouragements need to be given even if they haven’t resolved the issues.

Young people in work may have anxieties at times that need to be detected and helped with. They may be sensitive when facing competition among peers. They like to be reassured that their work is on track, not slowing down team work progresses.

At the time when candidates are actively looking for permanent jobs, they may get frustrated after facing a number of rejections. Good care and support is needed, and even tactical skills boosting can be useful before encouraging them to go for more applications and interviews. So far, Kickstart candidates having worked with us have all found their dream jobs.

Demonstrate inspirational qualities that are appreciated by customers, staff or employers

One of the kickstart employees taken on by us said:

“Since starting employment as part of the kickstart initiative I have gained a priceless amount of information regarding software development. Although I would consider myself to be moving at a slow pace regarding the software we are using, I am continuing t learn a tonne of new things on a continuous basis that I would have never learnt, had I been self-studying. This opportunity continues to provide me with insight on real-life project development and the guidance from my manager is the perfect middle ground between giving me enough help, whilst still pushing me to conduct my own research and use my own critical thinking and problem solving skills.”

This quote was selected by Kingston Chamber of Commerce and published in Kingston Borough Business magazine, Issue 20, Spring 2021, on page 14.

An employer in news media industry when seeking reference said:

“I’m pleasantly surprised that the candidate picked up so many practical software skills within such a short period of time working with you.”

A Kickstart employee when considering our permanent job offer said:

“I’ve really enjoyed my time working in your company so I definitely would like to continue on a permanent basis after the Kickstart!”