IT solutions provider works with the Department for Work and Pensions to create 45 new jobs for young people amidst staggering unemployment figures as a result of COVID-19

Youth employment has significantly declined throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Findings from the Office for National Statistics show that 16-24-year-olds have suffered job loss more than any other age group, a statistic that is expected to worsen as the furlough scheme ends. As such, an entire generation is seeing its job prospects dwindle as the pandemic continues. 

To combat this, the UK government launched the innovative Kickstart Scheme in late 2020 as a means of encouraging businesses to create job opportunities that would offer young people key skills and experience and had the potential to launch long, lasting careers. As announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of the wider Plan for Jobs initiative, The Kickstart Scheme looks to spur Britain’s economic revival by funding employers to create new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. 

Sian Drabble, Senior Partnership Manager for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), commented, “The Kickstart Scheme is mutually beneficial for employers and young people alike, and is a vital initiative in driving economic recovery for the UK.”

The opportunity

For Comtec, the Kickstart Scheme was the perfect vehicle for creating jobs, hiring an untapped tool of fresh talent that could be trained from the ground up, and giving back to the Surrey community it calls home – as well as the wider IT community. 

“What’s great about the Kickstart Scheme is that it’s geared towards 16-24 years olds, young people who can be trained to fill the skills gap that’s hurting the UK technology industry,” commented Nick Claxson, CEO and Founder of Comtec Enterprises. “So not only are we hiring people who can be trained to our specific business needs, but we’re also arming them with transferable skills that they can take with them as and when they move on to new roles.”

Following a successful 2020, Comtec looked added significant upgrades to its network infrastructure, enhancing bandwidth provision at its primary Comtec House data centre and adding two new data suites, in order to cope with increased customer demand for managed IT services. 

“This growth period has allowed us to take on more and more staff in a range of varied roles,” continued Claxson. “This wouldn’t be the case for a static organisation, but our ongoing expansion has meant we have had to improve our capacity and capabilities, and therefore have an ongoing need for new talent we can train up to help us deliver on that.”

Comtec initially hired 30 new junior starters through the Kickstart Scheme in late 2020 but is already looking to up that number to 45, with even more hires on the horizon.

The story so far

Today, Comtec’s Kickstart hires are thriving in their roles whilst learning lasting skills that will continue to serve them throughout their careers. Some have even left Comtec for new pastures, though Claxson and his team view this as the highest success. “One young man recently handed in his notice as he was pursuing a career in Ecology, for which he already had a degree. Through his time with us, he has bolstered that degree with hands-on experience and transferable skills that have springboarded him into his dream career. We couldn’t be happier for him, or prouder to have enabled him to get there,” commented Claxson.

To ensure these junior hires were supported at every stage of their journey, Comtec has introduced a company-wide training program – The Comtec Training Academy – and a full-time wellbeing officer.

The Comtec Training Academy is a five-stage training programme that sees Comtec’s own experienced engineers train new and existing employees to become efficient engineers in three-to-six months, regardless of their core role. Trainees receive a personalised training plan including video training, one-to-one mentoring, and practice test training to ensure they are best equipped for certification tests. Key books, online resources and any other learning materials will also be provided to support their training.

“This is a great initiative for the whole business and not just the kickstarters,” added Claxson. “Coming out of the academy, trainees of all ages and experience will have industry-recognised qualifications, deep product and vendor knowledge, and most importantly a wide-open career path ahead of them. For our customers, this means all Comtec employees – whether they joined one month ago or ten years ago – have a base level understanding of core technology and vendor fundamentals and can provide a consistent service to our clients.” 

Comtec’s wellbeing officer works with the Kickstart hires to ensure that they are happy and fulfilled by their career progression, and ensures that they are receiving support in a way that is most helpful to them. 

“Many of our kickstarters have left education, not been able to secure the job they wanted – through no fault of their own – and have seen their confidence take a hit as a result,” continued Claxson. “We want to help them build that confidence back up by standing by them, supporting them through their anxieties, and showing them that they have what it takes to have a lasting, fulfilling career in technology.”

The introduction of the Comtec Training Academy has also allowed Claxson and his team to identify the best possible way each young hire learns, and adapt the training accordingly. “One of our hires has gone from job to job, unable to make anything last,” Claxson continued. “We noticed early on in his training that he doesn’t respond to written instructions in books and papers, but in fact is a brilliant visual learner. Now we’re adapting our teaching to his need, and I’m proud to say that, by learning in his own way, he’s now receiving the same qualifications as his peers. 

The future

Following these successful hires, Comtec is now actively working with the DWP to encourage others to reap the benefits of this win-win scheme. For employees, this means publicising the success Comtec has had and encouraging other leaders to follow in its footsteps. For potential young hires, Comtec and the DWP are working to demystify any doubts or reservations in young peoples minds. 

“A lot of young people’s only experience of technology is IT class in school, which has made them believe a career in tech is uninteresting or unachievable. We’re working hard to show them that isn’t the case, that it’s not scary and they do have support. Ultimately, the message we’re communicating to them is that if they are committed to learning and are self-motivated, they can achieve,” added Claxson.

Connor Rennison, a Comtec hire from Redhill, Surrey, reflected on what the initiative has meant for him, “The Kickstart Scheme has had a massive impact on me. Until now I had struggled to start a career in IT as I didn’t have the necessary experience, but now I’m receiving that real-world experience in the field, whilst studying to elevate my career even further. Thanks to Comtec and the Kickstart Scheme I’m now part of a great team that is supporting me to further my knowledge and widen my career prospects.”

“Comtec’s success is proof that the Kickstart Scheme works for both employers and employees,” added Drabble, DWP. “We’re thrilled that Comtec is the first ambassador of the programme, and are proud of the young people who’s careers are now back on track.”