Airport staff quit to join London coding firm

David Rai, CEO of Sparta Global (Sparta Global)
David Rai, CEO of Sparta Global (Sparta Global)

Londoners hoping to head abroad this summer have faced transport hell, from flight cancellations to long queues at passport control, as the travel industry wrestles with staff shortages.

British Airways have already cut some 30,000 flights between April and October, and on Monday Heathrow said it was extending its cap on passenger numbers until the end of October, signalling more cancellations could be on the way.

So where have all those staff gone? Some back to their EU home countries, some out of the workplace altogether in the “Great Resignation”. But according to one tech firm CEO, the answer also lies in career reinvention — and a swap to software engineering. Over recent months, Barbican-based Sparta Global has quietly been training up ex-travel and leisure workers into areas such as cloud computing and cyber security — including a former taxi driver, an ex-easyJet staffer and a former Pret sandwich maker.

The firm takes hundreds of applicants each year and offers them 500 hours of coding training, before sending them off to work at banks, insurance firms and government departments, where their salary will typically grow to £45,000 to £60,000 within three years.

Sparta Global boss David Rai, said: “What we found during the pandemic was a lot of people lost their jobs in industries such as travel, arts and retail… which led to a lot of people reviewing their careers. One applicant who was working for easyJet reached out to us, joined the programme and went through all the written, verbal and psychometric tests with flying colours.”

Rai started the tech training business in 2015 after struggling to find enough recruits with the right skills for his own tech firm. The company has since expanded to over 800 staff at several training centres across the country.

The programme accepts applicants from a range of backgrounds, with admissions determined through forensic aptitude testing rather than by formal qualifications or polished CVs.

“You do find a lot of people who come through the programme who haven’t had any formal education do have a lot of transferable skills,” Rai said. “The social mobility side is quite important to me — my parents were immigrants from India and I grew up in Coventry. I was the first in my family to go to university so I know it can be a challenge.”