How did the business start?
At Opus Talent Solutions, we had been working in digital and tech recruitment for 10+ years and kept coming up against the same problems. All our clients wanted more tech talent, faster, and with more diversity. And these people just didn’t exist.
Companies say they care about investing in diversity, but what they often mean is “get me an experienced person, with a diverse background, from another company.”
That’s not solving a problem, you’re just moving the problem around. Employers were expecting us to magic up these exceptional people out of thin air, So that’s exactly what we set about trying to do by launching the _nology brand.
What is the USP?
_nology exists to solve the skills gap, and more specifically, the diversity gap within the tech talent pool. We created an assessment and training programme that assumes zero previous tech knowledge or experience. We find people from all backgrounds with the capability and passion to change their careers, we give them the tech skills that they need, and then find them their first work placements.
We’ve added over 350 new people into the tech sector over the last two years. Our talent pool is therefore truly diverse, and represents the people they will be building concepts and products for, which is really important for the future of technology and innovation.
How has the business evolved?
We started out offering training courses to consumers. People could sign up and pay to do a course and then we would help find them a job in tech once they had completed it. However, our purpose was always to try and get as many people into tech as possible, and to really harness the need for tech skills as a route for social mobility. So last year, we launched our free programme as well.
We now also offer a two-year sponsored training scheme where people receive free, intensive training for 12-weeks, and then we place them on-site with clients for real experience whilst their training continues but they can earn money at the same time. This is a much more accessible option for many people than funding themselves through three years of university and then looking for a job.
Have you received investment?
Rather excitingly, we received our first private equity investment last year from Graphite Capital. They were particularly interested in our ESG agenda and future goals. Having their backing and access to capital will mean that we can now accelerate these things even faster and continue to expand our global presence.
How has Covid-19 affected things?
There are two major trends I’ve seen since Covid. However, both were happening anyway. The pandemic has just accelerated them.
The first is the speed of change in the skills that companies require now. With the whole world moving online, it’s expedited the need for businesses to look at the investment needed in their workforce and take action. We are working with global businesses on really exciting projects. A large Australian retailer wants us to reskill their retail staff into their tech team. And a large finance company doing the same thing with their call centre staff.
The second is that we are able to rewrite the rules now in terms of where people can work and when. It opens up a lot of opportunities for companies to be more creative around their hiring, and for candidates to think about the roles they could take. If you have a skill set that’s in high demand, you are now more likely to find a way to monetise those skills to suit your lifestyle. Whether that’s your hours, your physical location, freelance opportunities… And the good news is, that’s it’s never too late to learn these skills, regardless of what you’ve been doing up until now.
What are your future plans?
We’ve been running our retraining projects long enough now to know that it really, really works. Our trainees from the past two years are thriving in their new tech roles. Clients are thrilled with their progress and the impact the _nologists have in disrupting “group think” in traditional tech teams. This has given us the confidence to really grow our partnerships with charities this year.
Having the confidence that we can provide a safe, supported career choice for people from less advantaged backgrounds. Knowing that we can do real good in this space, rather than be taking risks with people’s futures. We are working with some awesome charities (Resurgo, The Sutton Trust, The Prince’s Trust) to do this.
Global expansion is also on the cards. We’ve completed retraining projects in the UK, India, Germany and Australia already… so it’s time to launch _nology in America this year! It’s such a big and intimidating market, but also somewhere we can have a huge impact. My own mantra is quite clear to me now. Do good. Be successful. And it’s ok to be proud of both.