Can CrowdSkills fix Britain’s £7bn youth unemployment crisis?

By Oliver Smith 14 January 2016
CrowdSkills advisor Kevin Ackermann and co-founders Marten Wetterberg and Iman Fadaei.

Meet the man on a mission to find work for the UK's jobless tech-savvy youth.

There are some 625,000 jobless young people in Britain. Many of them with cutting-edge digital skills but unable to get traditional employment for a lack of formal education or due to social circumstances.

The lost value of these unused digital skills was estimated to be worth almost £7bn a year to Britain’s economy in 2012.

As a law graduate in 2010 Iman Fadaei came face-to-face with this huge challenge and became determined to solve it.

“I could just see there was a huge amount of talent out there that just wasn’t being used,” Fadaei told The Memo.

At the same time Fadaei’s friends ended up at both small and large businesses hungry for high-tech help to stay on top of the digital revolution.

“Young people have those really valuable skills that businesses need access to, that’s the problem I wanted to solve.”

Crafting CrowdSkills

After university Fadaei founded a number of social enterprises — including Ethical Art, which funneled the cash from Masai art back to the communities that created it — before launching CrowdSkills in 2013 to tackle the problem he’d spotted as a graduate.

“What made the idea unique was that we decided to focus only on young people,” says Fadaei.

He found that companies, especially small and mid-sized businesses, were looking for tech-savvy local freelance workers who were still affordable, something that didn’t really exist at the time.

“If you want to find someone local you’re left with a high street firm which is going to cost you an arm and a leg,” he says. “Or you turn to an existing freelance website like Upwork, Freelancer or PeoplePerHour, but often with these services you don’t get someone local.”

“That’s why young people are perfect, because they are local and affordable.”

Crowdskills has so far connected businesses and organisations like UN Women, the UK Cabinet Office and the Department for Energy and Climate Change with 25 tech-savvy young people through its website to work on over 100 small web development projects.

“So one of our freelancers Zac we connected with a guy called Anousha who worked at a social housing organisation called Apax based in Stratford,” says Fadaei. “Anousha needed a simple website to be set up and given basic ongoing support for between £500 and £1,000.”

Fixing the bigger problem

But for Fadaei, CrowdSkills is more than just building a profitable business, he wants to fix that wider social problem of youth unemployment.

“For every 2 projects per month we complete, it’s the equivalent of one young person out of unemployment,” he says.

This year Fadaei says he is on track to get the equivalent of seven young people out of unemployment.

“Looking ahead we have a five year goal of getting 500 young people out of unemployment, which is 1,000 projects per month.”

It’s an ambitious plan but, having proved his business model and with a growing number of partners like Microsoft and Impact Hub who are referring their peers and partners looking for freelance tech work towards CrowdSkills, it’s not beyond belief – especially as CrowdSkills is now international.

“Today I’m actually working with a young person in Turkey,” says Fadaei. “Because we’re actually in four countries now, the UK, Netherlands, Turkey and Greece, and just today we’ve confirmed a £5,000 project which he’s going to be completing.”

“Now we need to expand our team to take advantage of these opportunities.”

That’s Fadaei’s next challenge over the coming weeks, gearing up for a huge £150,000 crowdfunding campaign to hire the staff he needs to take CrowdSkills to the next level.

“There’s just so much talent out there that is still going to waste,” he says.

Luckily for Britain’s young unemployed, Fadaei has all his own talent focused on finding them a job.