Apprenticeships: Providing the UK's missing cloud skills

Written by Alex Bennett on 16 June 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

Alex Bennett thinks apprenticeships can improve cloud skills.

80% of Microsoft customers are taking advantage of cloud technology and in ten years a business that doesn’t rely on cloud technology could be as rare as a ‘no internet' policy is today. To make the most of tight IT budgets and boost return on investment, every business must make the most of cloud technology.

But a nationwide cloud skills shortage is preventing businesses from hiring the people they need to progress cloud projects. The solution: up-skill existing staff with recognised qualifications and cloud apprenticeships.

Businesses cannot afford to miss out

At its simplest, cloud computing means accessing data, programs and services over the internet, instead of on a local hard drive or in-house server. Cloud services, like those providing file storage or website hosting, allow small businesses and startups to get up and running with flexible IT infrastructure that requires minimal upfront investment.

Worryingly, businesses that attempt to move ahead without qualified cloud professionals, risk not only implementing useless technology but also opening themselves to security risks.

For larger businesses, migrating critical services and physical hardware (like clunky server racks) to the cloud eliminates the need for staff to monitor infrastructure 24/7. This frees up IT teams to work on useful business projects, rather than daily maintenance tasks.

The benefits cannot be understated and cloud is crucial for businesses going forward. Global cloud IP traffic is predicted to quadruple over the next five years. Businesses that fail to invest will be left behind. But to make the most of this technology, organisations need cloud-skilled professionals.

The cloud skills gap exists and it’s widening

The rapid expansion of cloud has created a skills gap and as with other in-demand technologies, like cyber security, supply is now outpacing demand.

Microsoft’s latest UK Cloud Skills Report, which surveyed 250 technical leaders, shows businesses are not prepared for the accelerating demand for cloud skills. 83% rank cloud as crucial for digital transformation, but data suggests finding these skills will be challenging.

Worryingly, businesses that attempt to move ahead without qualified cloud professionals, risk not only implementing useless technology but also opening themselves to security risks.

Just 2% of cloud applications in use across organisations worldwide are ready for the new data protection legislation to be introduced in May 2018. Businesses must secure their cloud applications before GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) becomes law in the UK. Under GDPR, using unsecured cloud apps risks a fine of £17m or 2% of annual turnover - whichever is higher.

But, with an investment in cloud training and levy-funded apprenticeships, it’s possible for organisations to quickly take advantage of cloud technology, catch up to competitors and secure their applications in time for GDPR.

How to build cloud skills in businesses

A lack of cloud professionals is fuelling sky high salaries for skilled employees - businesses can face up to the high costs of recruitment or opt to train their own staff at a fraction of the cost.

Businesses must consider upskilling their own staff through training and IT apprenticeships. Comprehensive certification and training programs are available from top cloud vendors, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud - these are ideal for taking existing IT staff and transforming them into cloud experts.

By also taking advantage of new funding rules for apprenticeships, businesses across the UK can now skill-up staff with cloud training at a fraction of the price.

Government is contributing 90% of the cost of an apprenticeship for your business – including training and recruitment costs – if your businesses UK wage bill is under £3m. If it’s over £3m, you’ll pay the Apprenticeship Levy and be heavily incentivised to hire apprentices.

Apprenticeships can be an effective route to specialising existing employees in cloud technology. By placing existing employees on cloud-focused apprenticeships, employees will get new skills at a hugely reduced cost. Of course, you can also use apprenticeships to hire and train new staff without significant financial investment.

Apprenticeship programmes, like the Network Engineer, align well to cloud roles, especially when including training and certifications from cloud providers. Cloud apprenticeships also exist and are built to align with the cloud skills required by vendors, like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

By upskilling existing staff through training and IT apprenticeships, UK businesses can quickly bring in the cloud skills they’re missing. The sooner organisations can progress their cloud projects, the sooner they’ll benefit.

 

About the author

Alex Bennett is a technical writer for Firebrand Apprenticeships.

 

Read more about learning technology here.

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