Turning students into IT support staff
By Jonathan Moules
Entrepreneurs are good at turning a problem into a solution.
Student@Home, which started in the Netherlands in 2010, was a reaction to two big challenges in need of a fix – high youth unemployment and the difficulty of finding good, cheap computer technicians to mend or service a home laptop. Why not hand the IT job to young people, Student@Home’s founders reasoned.
The business model also helps young people making the difficult transition into the workforce. IT graduates often find themselves caught by a conundrum: they have the degree but no experience.
Student@Home was launched in the UK last year by former banker Kelly Klein, who was backed by a £100,000 grant from the National Lottery, through the Big Venture Challenge, and a £500,000 equity investment from angel backers.She now has 70 students on her books, from universities in London and Birmingham. They are able to provide basic computer fixes, such as data back-up and WiFi set-up, as well as one-on-one or group tutorials. The plan is to increase this pool to 200 people by 2016.
For a monthly fee of £2, Student@Home customers can book an appointment with an undergraduate, costing £30 an hour, less than half the price of conventional IT support services. Visits can usually be arranged with just 24 hours notice, Ms Klein claims.Turnover is forecast to hit £500,000 this year with customers spread across London, Birmingham and Brighton, and the objective is to break even in the next 12 months.
Future plans include the creation of a Student@School training centre, offering long-term unemployed and disadvantaged people the opportunity to gain basic IT qualifications.