Case study: Kano
“Graduates are no longer the only answer”
Kano is one of Britain’s most innovative technology companies, creating computers that people of all ages can build themselves. They appointed two Business Administration apprentices in 2016 and say that the support they received from Step Forward has encouraged them to hire further school leavers.
Founded in 2013 after the CEO’s six-year-old cousin Micah expressed a desire to build a computer as easily as Lego, Kano has now sold over 100,000 computers to 87 countries and is developing further products.
It employs over 60 people in central London (from just five people three years ago) and has won various awards, while last month it was named the 9th most innovative consumer electronics company in the world (not far behind the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple) by FastCompany magazine.
The Customer Care team’s role includes helping people from around the world through email, moderating its online community, both through social media and its own online platform and as well as other projects, such as workshops at schools. It plays a key part in looks after Kano’s extended family of customers who build and play with its computers.
High quality candidates
Matthew Keegan, Head of Customer Care, had previously always recruited interns and graduates, but was intrigued by the idea of apprentices.
He says: “When a colleague suggested the apprentice scheme I was really interested to see how it might work for us. It seemed like a great way of bringing young talent straight from school into our team.
“Previously I had been worried about recruiting school leavers as I felt it would be tough to help them transition to the workplace. I needn’t have worried though, as I have had wonderful support from Step Forward and this has taken a lot of work off my shoulders, both through them providing high quality candidates and also through their ongoing support for the apprentices.”
Alex Henderson and Nathania Harrison both started with Kano in September 2016 aged 18, having recently completed their A Levels. Both apprentices are on Step Forward’s Business Administration course and work in the Customer Care team.
Their roles include helping with all elements of the customer care team’s activities, supporting users of Kano’s products, programs, and services.
A fresh perspective
Matthew recognises that both apprentices have made valuable contributions and brought a unique perspective through being young and straight out of school.
“This fresh take has been really insightful, especially for a young business that’s used to working with older groups of graduates. At Kano, our apprentices are by far the youngest team members, and I was worried it would make it difficult for them to acclimatise.
“My advice for employers is that if you are thinking of taking on one apprentice, consider taking two. Training two people doesn’t involve any extra work for me, but it allowed the apprentices to have form a close bond with someone of their own age that they can relate to as they transition from school to the workplace.
“We will be recruiting two more apprentices in 2017, and our existing apprentices are both actively involved in the selection process.”
An inspiring and surprising experience
Both apprentices have been able to take on real responsibility.
Alex has found a passion for computer science and programming (which he didn’t know he had) and has been creating complex physics experiments using code, which has made him one of the most popular creators in the Kano community.
He says, “Working at Kano has helped me mature as a person and as an employee, giving me an invaluable insight into the workings of a start-up company. During my time here, I’ve been inspired to start learning to program, and I’ve developed a strong sense of direction for my future.”
Nathania has taken the lead in project managing the opening of Kano’s new customer service centre in the United States (with an inventory of over 10,000 items) and its whole deployment. It is a major project for the business and a huge responsibility for a young person early in her career.
Apprentice Nathania Harrison said: “I’m really surprised by the amount of new things I’ve learned during my apprenticeship. Working on the US service centre taught me a lot about researching a problem, analysing it, and writing high quality reports: something that is going to be really important in the future.
“My advice to anyone considering an apprenticeship would be to really throw yourself into it. You’ll get out as much as you put in!”
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