WOW, WOW, WOW! This is an actual solution to an actual problem.
This is the best solution I have seen to the national shortage of developers/coders/software engineers that the UK Digital and Technology market currently faces. This really could make a difference. I love it.
This is how I felt late on Saturday afternoon as I sat reading an article in the paper which was titled:
‘No teachers. No lectures. No tuition fees. How the Lastminute.com millionaire started a school for supergeeks.’
Apart from the not helpful, stereotyping use of the word ‘supergeek,’ I’ll be honest I could not turn the pages quick enough to get started!
Before I go any further. For complete and utter transparency, the full article is here if you would like all the context, and information around what I am about to comment on.
In short, Brent Hoberman, who founded Lastminute.com over 20 years ago, then sold it for over half a billion pounds is on a mission. That mission is to train over 100,000 software developers before the year 2030. This goal will be achieved by utilising very ‘different’ training and education methods. People will attend a newly setup educational centre in London, where all training and development is online, collaborative, remote, and game/programming based.
This sounds good, really good.
Let’s get even more excited! Not only is the above really going to have an impact, but also the establishment Mr Hoberman has launched ignores qualifications, social standing, experience, financial means, and pretty much everything else that puts up education barriers. As an example, the way to access the course is by completing a 2 hour computer game in the first instance.
I love it. I love it. I LOOOOOOOVVVVEEE it! This really could work.
How can this get better?!
Oh yeah, the cource is completely free to those who want to join and take part in it. NO TUITION FEES!
We have hit the jackpot!
There is more.
There can’t be more.
Seriously, there is more.
Once you complete the two-year course you are GUARRANTEED a job at the end.
This is it, shut the book on the ‘coding crisis!’ Ring News at Ten, tell the world, get it on all socials; 100,000 developers with no educational bias, no gender bias (37% of the first cohort are women,) and guaranteed jobs, will be entering the workspace over the next decade. All from one source.
The reason Brent is doing all this is that he has seen first-hand the impact a lack of diversity, and available talent can have on technology driven businesses.
Yes! This is a solution by someone who gets it.
That’s it then, let’s just crack on with our day?
Well, I’m afraid not, as for me there is a serious catch here.
Firstly, and being completely serious, this initiative will help, that I don’t doubt. There are currently 65 people taking part in the course, with a further 40 due to start imminently.
The longest journey starts with the smallest step as they say.
However, for me there is a catch, and there is a flaw in this offering. In-fact there is a few.
First up, for businesses to access this talent they have to pay a fee of £20,000 for each student they take. That is £20,000 for a fully trained person, who may have never worked a day of their life in the skill you have hired them in.
Now The Times does not see this as a problem, as they claim the average fee charged by the dreaded ‘London head hunters’ for these same people is £30,000.
You can’t see me right now, but I am shaking my head at the same stereotyping from this statement as I was at the use of the term ‘supergeek’ in an article about people who work in Tech.
I’ll briefly dismiss this. The average London salary for a Software Developer when comparing over 634 current live roles is £70,000. Firstly that salary is not for someone with two years training only, however for the sake of The Times, lets pretend it is. Let’s then apply a 25% fee to it; full cost to a business would be £17,500. You’d probably get some kind of rebate on that transaction to, but lets not focus on those details here.
So this ‘mission’ to solve a crisis will generate £2,100,000 worth of revenue from the first 105 people taking part in 2021. The plan is however to fill the building that Mr Hoberman and the team have in place, which seats 1000 people. To hit the 100,000 person goal this building is going to need to be pretty full for most of the next 9 years; every 250 people completing the course will generate £5,000,000 in revenue.
How can something so profitable really be helping the problem, and if it is profit making (which the article accepts it is,) then don’t these establishments already exist? They do, just Google ‘London coding schools’ and you will see a host already in existence.
What’s my problem though? That this is really profitable and I’m jealous?
No, it’s not that. It’s that 99% of businesses in the UK employ less than 10 people, six million businesses are classed as SME. It is these businesses who need access to people to grow. The companies currently lined up to sponsor, benefit and hire from Brent Hoberman’s new business venture are names like Bosch and Marks & Spencer. Don’t get me wrong, I know big business needs people too, but the £20,000 fee does not feel accessible to businesses that need it.
If businesses are going to pay £20,000 for someone with no real world experience, they really might as well partner with a recruitment business who specialises in this area, and go on a journey. If they needed to hire 2 or 3 of these people over a 12/18 month period, then seriously get to market, hire your own talent person and, hire directly.
Yes, there are so many benefits to this scheme, but seriously £20,000 a head, national press coverage, and big business already lined up support it? Just feels like a closed shop again.
All this from someone who clearly is a fantastic business person, lets be honest he sold Lastminute.com for over £500m. I can see why the need to make so much money from this scheme is important……..
Think I’m being sarcastic, just pop £20,000 x 100000 into your calculator and see how much money this business will potentially generate in the next 20 years.
Maybe this is the solution. Maybe I am completely missing the point here. Maybe I am focusing on the cost and not the zero cost of entry.
I don’t know what it is, but all of a sudden this does not feel like a silver bullet, but another helping of profiteering by a big silver spoon.
What do you think?
This article was written by Simon Brown, Founder of Digital 51. Simon would love to hear your thoughts on this article, so please share, comment, or reach out to him on