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14 November 2012

Geeks with a heart

Geeks with a heart

On the face of it, Fluid IT are your usual IT solutions provider, but they are also a social enterprise which has been training a variety of unlikely candidates through to employment for almost eight years.

Their launch was encouraged by Christ Church Spitalfields’ offer of accommodation, putting them next door to the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT), a charity which works with those recovering from drug addiction, homelessness and poverty, who have supplied them candidates from a variety of backgrounds to train.

The founder and director of Fluid IT, David Schluter, said “It takes quite a while to train people in IT support – it requires a breadth of experience: we are trying to offer people more than just a skill; we want to offer them a chance at a new career.  

“We invest in people for the long term and want to see real transformation.

“With the learners, we try to start non-threatening, so candidates begin working in our office.  As they progress, we would then take them onsite to see our clients, charity first, then when confident enough they can go to a business client – where people get shouted at if they get it wrong – so it gets progressively harder.

“This progression of work allows confidence to build; the people who come to us might not be particularly suited to the classroom environment, so instead they are learning on the job.” 

Alongside working with the SCT, Fluid IT has also been able to offer work experience to students from schools in London boroughs Newham and Tower Hamlets.

The project has seen many success stories, with people having left to complete degrees in IT, business and economics, as well as going on into employment elsewhere. 

David said: “One learner originally started out with us for only half a day a week because of his health problems. That gradually built up to half- and then full-time.

“Since his joining us, his life has really changed: from a completely different past, he is now off benefits, employed full-time, in his own flat, has got his driver’s license, and just recently returned from his honeymoon!”

Fluid IT are now looking to increase their impact through working with the Cinnamon Network.

Working with Cisco which runs IT and entrepreneurial training programmes, Fluid IT will soon be going to churches on the hunt for ‘Geeks with hearts’: people with a background in IT who would be willing to work alongside someone who needed a chance to get into work.

David explained: “We have all of the systems, supplier relationships and contracts they would need to give them a ‘business in a box’, so that through their church they can set up an IT company and serve local businesses and churches.

“So our head office will be able to support their small business providing high-level expertise, holiday cover and out-of-hours support, as well as providing training and other resources."

Having done a test run in Wimbledon, they are just about to begin the pilot phase and are opening an office in Tonbridge.

They have been involved with St Margaret’s Lothbury and St Mary Woolnoth for the past six years, and the rector at St Margaret’s is also involved as the company’s spiritual director.

And the company tries to be different in the way they do business as well: “Around 70 per cent of our client-base is not-for-profit organisations, who typically struggle to afford sound IT support, and often fall prey to rather unscrupulous operators.

“We strive to differentiate ourselves by being completely transparent and honest with our clients.”

David went on: “This company was launched by a church, thrives on its on-going attendance of a mid-week service at a city church, and intends to grow through the church. We mean to keep Christ central in Fluid IT: as much in our plans as in our day-to-day activities. We’re excited to see where God takes us!”