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Tech firm opens trainee scheme up in bid to beat industry skills shortage

PUBLISHED: 11:25 10 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:25 10 April 2018

Netmatters. Chris and James Gulliver. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Netmatters. Chris and James Gulliver. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Bringing the bedroom coder into the workplace has helped a Norfolk technology firm to combat the industry’s skills shortage – and now it is calling for other businesses to join in.

Netmatters, which is based in Wymondham, has been running the Scions programme for 14 months, in which time it has produced four developers, with more in the pipeline.

Now the company is hoping 
to expand the initiative to 
allow businesses to sponsor a trainee and get access to new talent.

Managing director James Gulliver said: “We had been trying to recruit developers for maybe five years without much success because there is a massive shortage in the market, and perhaps those available don’t have the qualifications or experience because companies are doing everything they can to hold on to good developers.”

Mr Gulliver said the firm realised a passion for coding was the biggest driver for its top staff.

“We decided if we could find the people with the passion but who had not been able to start a career in tech, the diamonds in the rough, then we can teach them,” he said.

The Scions programme gives each trainee a set of tasks to work on when not being actively taught and introduces them to testing for commercial software.

Mr Gulliver said the team had worked out a degree course gave students about 150 hours of coding experience over three years but Scions got 850 hours in six months.

Future50 firm Netmatters estimates it takes between three and nine months to train each Scion, with most work-ready by six months. Technical skills aside, Mr Gulliver said one of the key things was the range of soft skills required in a professional workplace.

Netmatters is hoping to roll the scheme out with the aim of training a 10-strong cohort. Mr Gulliver said: “If we want Norfolk and Norwich to be a technical superpower then we need the resources and the skills for that.”

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership estimates there will be a need for 10,000 tech roles in Norfolk and Suffolk by 2024.

Tim Robinson, chief operations officer for industry group TechEast, said few skills initiatives demonstrated success at such an early stage.

He said: “I think it has the potential to be expanded and become another string in the bow of this region.”

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