Experiential or Alternative Education: Training tech talent for startups

Sifted | Amy Lewin | Dec 17, 2021

Tech talent - Experiential or Alternative Education:  Training tech talent for startupsAlternative education

Academy belongs to a troop of alternative education institutions that have grown up alongside global growth in entrepreneurship and tech. There’s Silicon Valley-founded On Deck, an accelerator and community with cohorts for different tech roles and functions, and Jolt, the Israeli startup that Balderton backed in 2020 to sell its “NAMBA (Not an MBA) programme” for £175 a month. One of the most-well funded is UK-based edtech Multiverse, which has raised nearly $200m to connect apprentices with companies.

There are also several remote engineering schools, like Lambda, which offer ISAs (income share agreements); students pay no upfront tuition but they do pay a slice of their income to the school once they land a job.

“What we’re trying to do is build a modern elite institution — which is elite but not elitist”

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Academy instead makes companies pay for access to candidates, while it’s free for “scholars” (as Academy calls its trainees). They’re given a £3,700 living allowance while on the training scheme, and are on starting salaries of £35,000 on average.

Ramrachia thinks that he’s been able to attract a more diverse cohort because there is no price tag and because of the attributes Academy is selecting for: “IQ, EQ and drive.”

Of the 62 who have begun the programme, 59% of them are from ethnic minority background, 30% of them identify as Black, 52% of them are women and 25% were on free school meals — a measure often used in Britain as a stand-in for growing up poor.

“What we’re really interested in is high potential, and that can come from anywhere.” 70% of Academy’s trainees are from humanities and social science backgrounds.

The business model

Academy is working with 10 companies, including mobility company Beryl, members club Soho House and talent management startup Beamery. Currently, companies pay to hire from the pool (around £8,000) and pay a two-year subscription (at £330 per month) for a development programme for those employees and their managers.

There are also several remote engineering schools, like Lambda, which offer ISAs (income share agreements); students pay no upfront tuition but they do pay a slice of their income to the school once they land a job. When students get their job it is no time to do homework tasks, so students can use sources with online assignment help.

That second part is key — Academy helps partners with onboarding, “on-ramp” and retention. That’s to help overcome the reluctance many startups have to hire junior talent who they fear will suck up too much time from senior talent.

“There are very few companies hiring at entry level”

As part of this, Academy offers a six-month training scheme for managers. It teaches them “how to set one-on-ones, give and receive feedback, set career progression frameworks… a whole bunch of management 101 because management in tech is terrible.”

Each cohort is also invited to workshops and to a Slack community. “And effectively it is that peer-to-peer community that is the most valuable thing — a bunch of people who are also going through this for the first time.”

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