Apprentices Have Enriched the Company

By Daniel Hendrie

Why not start from scratch?

Why the software sector needs to think differently about early talent.

Daniel Hendrie is CTO at Kairos Sports Tech, which was recently acquired by Teamworks. He explains why he believes a shift in culture is needed when it comes to building a tech team. (And taking on an apprentice isn’t as hard as you think!)

I love this sector. It’s an exciting space to be in – fast moving and ever changing. It’s also not without its challenges when it comes to growing a team.

When I’m speaking with peers in the tech sector, conversation at some point usually turns to finding talent.

As a locally funded start–up, we were growing our team organically. We had already hired a principal and two senior engineers. In terms of recruiting, we were up against the FDIs and their salary offers – very much feeling the distorted labour market for software engineers and knowing it would be impossible to find someone with our required tech stack.

It was time for some fresh thinking.

As I reflected on it, I thought “why not start from scratch?” After all, even if we hire graduates, we still need to train them from scratch. So why not start with clean slate and no bad habits.

I was mulling this over in Ormeau Baths one day and was sharing my recruitment frustrations with a friend. “I just want people who are interested – we’ll do the rest”, I said. It was then my friend pointed me towards Workplus. They helped us think about bringing in early talent and, in our first year with Workplus, we hired three apprentices and haven’t looked back.

Apprentices contribute from the get–go

Those three apprentices are now 18 months in. They’re doing a Higher Level Apprenticeship so they’re working towards a degree as well as learning in real time.

Before they were even six months into their apprenticeship, they were significantly contributing. I don’t mean partially– I mean deeply contributing.

We were supporting them to become fully rounded individuals and exposing them to all aspects of the business. In return, we had fresh eyes on problems and a hunger to learn. From early on, the apprentices were coming up with valuable ideas and great solutions. They’ve contributed to features and products and have added market value to what we’re doing.

Why the ‘I don’t have time to hire an apprentice’ line doesn’t land with me

When I talk to some peers about us growing talent through apprentices, some will respond that they simply don’t have time to train. They’re looking to their next round of investment and need experienced people, or they’ve won a contract and just need people to hit the ground running.

It doesn’t take as long as you may think to train an apprentice. It’s been the right move for us as a company.

Hiring apprentices opens us up to a much broader range of talent than we would typically find in the tech marketplace, this for us is a huge positive. 


It’s not as hard as you might think!

Smaller businesses, especially in the tech space, often switch off to apprenticeships because they don’t know where to start and think there will be so much handholding involved.

We had three senior engineers at the time we hired three apprentices, and we buddied them up on a one–to–one basis, which has worked really well. Furthermore, Workplus was also very helpful in this and we got a programme in place easily.

Taking on apprentices has enriched the company  

When we started talking to Teamworks about a possible acquisition, the company was interested in our current team. Taking on apprentices enriched our company culture – they helped to highlight our core values of collaboration, continuous learning and supported development.

The apprenticeship model doesn’t exist in the same way in the USA and when we explained to Teamworks what it was, they loved it. One of the guys from Teamworks summed it up rather succinctly: “What’s not to like? We get people, they get an education!” They saw it in the same way we did – taking on people who are interested in the subject, able and enthusiastic to learn and continuing their education.

The calibre was so good…I could’ve hired twice as many!

It was almost two years ago that I invited those apprentices for interview. (The calibre was so good through Workplus, I could have taken on at least double that!) They joined us in September 2022. It feels me with immense pride that in such a short time they have excelled. On paper, they’ll be apprentices for another few years, but, to us, they’re already outstanding software engineers.




If you want to learn more about apprenticeships click here.

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