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How UK businesses can use the Apprenticeship Levy to boost Azure skills


alexbennettBy Alex Bennett, Firebrand Training

Alex works for Firebrand Training, a Microsoft Gold Learning Partner. He has worked in the IT training and certification industry for the past 3 years. He writes regularly about Windows Server, Microsoft Azure and IT security.

Businesses across the UK are struggling to progress their cloud projects because of a lack of qualified Azure professionals. Microsoft Partners found that Azure talent was the hardest to source, according to a 2016 study from Curotalent.

“Skills are a huge focus of the company. Customers are [moving] to the cloud and we have [found] there is a real shortage of skills” says Glenn Woolaghan, partner lead at Microsoft UK.

Microsoft are committed to closing the cloud skills gap and have already committed to creating 30,000 new digital apprenticeship roles by 2020.

Microsoft continues to support their pledge with the introduction of new Azure Apprenticeships that coincide with the arrival of the Apprenticeship Levy. This is your chance to bring Azure talent into your organisation at little-to-no cost - here’s how.

How the Apprenticeship Levy affects you

Launching April 6 2017, the Apprenticeship Levy promises to revolutionise the way organisations hire and train IT professionals.

All UK employers with an annual pay bill greater than £3 million must invest 0.5% of this sum into hiring and training apprentices. The government will then provide a 10% top-up to the funds employers contribute – for every £100 paid, businesses get £110 to spend on apprenticeships.

But if you fail to spend your cash, you’ll lose it. Levy funds expire 24 months after they enter your Digital Services Account.

Businesses not paying the Levy will also benefit massively. When the new funding system begins in May, these businesses will pay just 10% of the total cost of their apprenticeship. The remaining 90% will be paid by the government.

Use the Levy to get Azure skills

All businesses in the UK are now highly incentivised to hire apprentices. Savvy employers will use this opportunity to bring in the Azure skills they need.

When the Apprenticeship Levy is introduced, businesses will be able to spend their levy on IT apprenticeships across a range of employer developed programmes, known as National Apprenticeship Standards. These Standards align to specific job roles and set out the core skills that an apprentice will learn.

Microsoft has partnered with three Academies, including Firebrand Training, to deliver new Azure apprenticeships.

Microsoft is also aligned with the National Apprenticeship Service to promote the benefits of apprenticeships. Sue Husband, Director of the National Apprenticeship Service, said:

“Apprenticeships also bring opportunity; to attract new talent, offer progression and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. There has never been a better time to employ an apprentice.”

The following four programmes, tailored by Firebrand to provide the cloud skills employers need, are now ready for delivery:

  • Level 3 Azure Infrastructure Technician – apprentices study virtual machine (VM) administration and learn to support customers by resolving virtual and on-premise queries.
  • Level 4 Azure Software Developer – apprentices learn to design, build and test Azure solutions and applications/infrastructure.
  • Level 4 Azure Cyber Security Technologist – apprentices will use their Azure knowledge to identify cyber threats and risks.
  • Level 4 Azure Network Engineer – apprentices will focus on virtual networks as they lea how to design, install and support business communications.

These programmes provide apprentices with the skills they need to manage Azure technology in an organisation. Each apprenticeship programme also includes official Azure training and certifications, like Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions.

The Levy isn’t just for new staff. Use the levy to put existing employees on Azure apprenticeships, boosting their cloud skills with government-funded training.

The Apprenticeship Levy is just five weeks away. To hire in April, businesses should start planning now to find their perfect candidate.

Skill-up on Azure, before GDPR arrives

With the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the horizon, businesses must secure their cloud data and applications or risk a £17 million (€20 million) fine.

Shockingly, just 2% of cloud applications are GDPR-ready and the majority of businesses are still unaware of this new regulation. If you’re unsure whether you’re compliant, take a look at this guide and get your business ready for GDPR.

The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy could close the cloud skills gap, provide the professionals needed to complete critical Azure projects, and ensure GDPR compliance.

Get more information on the Apprenticeship Levy here. Plus, if you haven’t already, all employers should now register here to manage their apprenticeship funds.