Thursday, 29 August 2013

Windows 8.1 is near, is everyone happy?


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A couple of weeks ago Microsoft announced the release date of Windows 8.1, the highly anticipated update to its latest operating system, Windows 8. The new version, previously known as Windows Blue will be available at no cost for existing W8 users from 17th October, while new customers can purchase it from 18th October.

Two days ago, the company issued another statement, namely that it was readying Windows 8.1 for release. According to Microsoft’s official blog the 8.1 version is a significant update thanks to customer feedback and of course the product teams. 
  


As of Tuesday 27th August, Microsoft has “started releasing Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 to their hardware partners.” However, there is one major difference. Microsoft changed the pattern of the release. Unlike in case of the previous updates, this time only original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are given early access, but developers and IT professionals, as well as MSDN and TechNet subscribers are all forced to wait until the general release in October.

Ed Bott in his report for ZDNet.com recently wrote that although, he has sympathy for subscribers of MSDN and TechNet, releasing Windows 8.1 to them would almost be the equivalent of releasing it to the public. However, he couldn’t see why developers and IT pros were not granted access. Thus, he asked a Microsoft spokesperson, who replied as follows:

“Only sharing RTM code with OEMs is really about optimizing the overall experience for our customers—putting our hardware partners in a position to prepare the variety of new and innovative devices consumers and businesses can expect later this Fall just in time for holiday. While our partners prepare their exciting new devices, we’ll stay close to them and continue to refine Windows 8.1 to ensure a quality experience at general availability for customers on October 18th. This includes commercial customers with or without volume licensing agreements, our broad partner ecosystem, subscribers to MSDN and TechNet as well as consumers.”

With the reasons remaining unclear and developers bitter, all we can do is wait and see how Windows 8.1 will do once it’s released to the public. 

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

More apprentice successes


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A Firebrand apprenticeship is a real paid job, in an IT-related business. Our apprentices learn on the job, gain hands-on experience and get trained through Firebrand’s Accelerated Learning technique.

Little over a year ago, a cohort of 8 determined individuals joined our apprenticeship scheme. Their goal was to gain knowledge, qualifications and experience. They succeeded. Every single one of them achieved the following certifications:
  • Level 3 Certificate in ICT Systems & Principles
  • Level 3 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence
  • MTA (Microsoft Technical Associate) Server Administration Fundamentals
  • MTA Networking Fundamentals
  • MTA Database Administration Fundamentals

Some of them took it even further and gained additional certs, such as the CompTIA Server+ or Functional Skills ICT Level 2.

We are happy to say that all their hard work and effort paid off, as now they all hold permanent positions in IT-related businesses. Charlotte, Declan, Haris, Ross, Tim, Alex, Liam and Luke well done to every single one of you!

Apprentices accompanied by our staff and Dominic Gill, Apprenticeship Lead at Microsoft

But the story of our great apprentices does not end here, as we have another committed bunch to talk about.

Last November, 7 committed youngsters decided to take on the challenge and become Firebrand apprentices. In their testimonials they all said college and university were “not for me”. Instead, they wanted to take a head start and dive into the working world, while being trained and mentored by our experienced instructors. 

10 months later, they completed their training. With several certs under their belts and some of them with job offers in their hands, our apprentices are ready to put their knowledge into practice.

Dylan, James, Scott, Louise, Divinia, Jodie and Billie with Charlotte Preece ad Gary Fildes of Firebrand

On behalf of Firebrand Training, we wish you the best of luck in the future. And remember, failure is not an option! 

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Attack techniques by the numbers


By 
Verizon logo

Verizon released its 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) which offers security pros a guide to the most persistent threats and where attention should be focused to defend against them.

The report used the data obtained from breach investigations that they and other organisations performed during 2012. The data includes a total of 621 confirmed data breaches and over 47,000 security incidents from around the world.

According to the report, 52% of the data loss incidents it examined were the result of some form of hacking.

The report considered more than 40 attack techniques (some incidents used more than one) the majority came from just 5 categories, which shows hacker preferences. Of the 52% of breaches that involved hacking, 80% involved guessing, cracking, or reusing valid credentials.

Types of attack can vary depending on the size of the company. Small companies tend to get more "brute force" attacks on authentication while larger companies have more issues with stolen credentials.

The best way to tackle these forms of attack are by moving to multi-factor authentication, but it isn't always the safest solution and the Verizon also notes that password issues are not an easy problem to fix. Policies for proper password lengths and complexities are vital and can help reduce the risk. We wrote about passwords on a previous post and how you can make them more secure, you can find it here.

When discussing the importance of information security, it’s important to remember that anyone can be a target. You've probably heard excuses like "we're too small to be a target" or "we don't have anything of value", but if there is anything the Verizon report shows us, is that breaches can and do occur in organizations of all sizes in all types of industries.

Profit drives several breaches, especially in the finance, retail, and food-services sectors, but they also target industries that possess assets in the form of property, such as manufacturing and professional services.

Below is a list of attack techniques listed by the overall.


Attack techniques - Verizon Report
By the Numbers: Attack Techniques by Verizon
The report contains a lot of information that paints a clear picture of the motives and techniques used by attackers to compromise their target organizations. It's an interesting read and there are many lessons that can be found within. You can download the report here.

About the Author:
Julian writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Julian is the companies Digital Marketer.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

10 days left to Win Free Training for Life



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The final countdown has begun for Firebrand's Free Training for Life competition

Only 10 days remain in which you can enter for your chance to win a lifetime of free training on Firebrand's full portfolio of IT, Project Management and Security courses.

The closing date is: 23:59 GMT, Sunday 1st September 2013.




What courses are up for grabs?


Firebrand's full portfolio of courses are available from all the major vendors including Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, APMG, PMI, CompTIA, EC-Council and (ISC)2.

You can take all the industry leading certifications for Free! You heard me right....MCSE, MCSD, MCSA, CCNA, CCNP, CISSP, CEH, A+N+, PRINCE2 and PMP all free. This is just a short selection, you can check out the full range on our courses page.

How does the competition work?

It's a lottery, you can enter in 3 simple steps:

  1. Head to - www.firebrandtraining.co.uk/ftfl
  2. Fill out your contact details
  3. Confirm your entry by clicking the link sent to your email following your entry.

Upon entering you will receive 1 entry into the lottery.

Can I get more entries into the lottery?

Absolutely, below are several ways you can get additional entries into the competition to improve your chances of winning:

  • Share you URL - on entering FTFL you will be given a unique sharing URL, you can stick this on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even your blog. For every individual who enters using your sharing URL will secure you 1 additional entry to competition.
  • Write a blog post - create a 500-word blog post explaining why you want to win Free Training For Life. Make sure you include your sharing URL, and mention the first course you want to attend. Then email your blog link to ftfl@firebrandtraining.co.uk and you will receive 50 extra entries!
  • Create a YouTube video - record a short YouTube video, again explaining why you want to win Free Training for life. Make sure you include your sharing URL, and mention the first course you want to attend. Then email your video link to ftfl@firebrandtraining.co.uk and you will receive 50 extra entries!

ENTER NOW FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN!



Author Bio:
Edward is a member of the Marketing team focussing on Technical writing and Community Engagement for Firebrand. Working in the Industry for over 2 years, Edward has experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint and Windows Server and Exchnage Server. Edward writes for a variety of Blogs and Publications on all things Technology

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Microsoft by the Numbers


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Microsoft needs little introduction. The software giant, headquartered in Redmond, Washington, has been around since 1975 and gradually became one of the most influential enterprises of the world. With its extensive product portfolio the company is highly ranked in terms of gaming consoles, instant messaging, enterprise technology, apprenticeship programs and of course operating systems.


For the lovers of technology and numbers, Microsoft has created a fascinating collection of visual statistics about its products and services. 

Snapshot of some stats

Emails have become essential in our lives and thus so did email clients. Microsoft’s client Outlook now has over 400 million users. Besides the so-called traditional e-messaging, Microsoft also plays a key role in instant messaging, now that it has recently acquired Skype. Here comes a real shocker. Every single day, Skype users all over the world spend 2 billion minutes chatting. That is more than 3,400 years of time spent every single day! 


Game consoles also constitute a large chunk of Microsoft’s product portfolio. Since its launch in 2005, over 76 million Xbox 360s have been sold worldwide, accompanied by more than 24 million Kinect sensors.

Having won more than 320 major awards, the company is referred to as one of the best and most prestigious employers and they definitely know a lot about hospitality. Their employees consume around 2.6 million gallons of free beverages and over 550,000 slices of pizza each year. However, since they employ around 97,000 people, these figures are probably less shocking than the statistics of Skype mentioned earlier.

For further facts and the entire collection click here.

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Why mobile security is important


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We love our gadgets, regardless of whether they're for work or entertainment, we just love them. We browse, we shop, we even bank with them. With the continuous increase in both smartphone and tablet sales, it is fair to say that every day more and more of us get enchanted by the never-ending range of games and applications available in the various e-stores. However, we must not forget that we might not be the only ones trying to make a transfer from our own bank account.


Android browsing alert

Security-testing specialist Veracode has created an infographic with a set of important information and statistics we are probably not aware of. According to this infographic, 40 million tablets were sold between 2011 and Q3 of 2012, so in less than 2 years. Evidently this number has rapidly been increasing ever since.  By the end of last year, around 1 billion mobile devices had been activated and numbers of mobile broadband subscribers are estimated to increase to 3.1 billion by the end of 2015. Big figures.  

But what does this mean? Apart from more train passengers with their heads down, it means there is a continuously growing target (or rather targeted) audience to hackers and cyber-criminals. Malware, phishing, dodgy background processes, hidden spyware, you name it, they are all out there. In fact, one of these may be hidden in the next app you are going to download. So, if you want your data to be intact, it is time to take some countermeasures: 
  • Use Password Protected Access Controls
  • Control Wireless Network and Service Connectivity
  • Try Mobile Antivirus Software or Scanning Tools
  • Back Up Your Data
  • Beware of Free Apps
For further statistics and tips on mobile security see the complete infographic by Veracode here

About the Author:       
Peter writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Forecasts predict Big Jobs in Big Data


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Earlier this year, e-skills UK and SAS (specialists in business analytics software and services) published Big Data Analytics: Anassessment of demand for labour and skills 2012 - 2017, which forecasts a 92% increase in demand for big data professionals between 2012 and 2017.

The report also shows that all together, IT employment is looking to grow by 2.5% a year over the next five years, which is three times the rate predicted for UK employment as a whole.

Apache Hadoop logoDemand for big data staff will rise the fastest - with a growth rate forecast of 18% per year. This means that by 2017, there will be at least 28,000 new jobs for big data in the UK every year!

The report also shows an analysis of recent demand trends for big data staff, while examining the core occupations and skills currently needed by UK employers implementing big data projects. These include:
  • Hadoop
  • NoSQL
  • Oracle
  • Java
  • SQL

CEO of e-skills UK, Karen Price, stated: "There’s huge potential in UK business to develop competitive advantage and new business through exploiting data assets. We need to ensure there’s a pool of high calibre IT specialist with the right skills to make the most of these opportunities."

 She added: "To truly exploit the benefits of big data, the UK needs a new breed of professionals," adds Mark Wilkinson, Managing Director, SAS UK and Ireland. "It's crucial for the industry to work with academic institutions to ensure that today's students are equipped with the skills so clearly in demand by UK businesses."

You can find the report here.

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Cloud Computing – important points to consider


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According to CIF's estimates, 75% of UK companies will be using at least one cloud service by the end of the year. The adaptation of your business to cloud computing is easier and more beneficial than you would first think. Via cloud technology, your business can save on IT costs, increase market share and avoid the setbacks of an on-premise IT infrastructure, such as the need for regular renewal.  

Fasthosts' guide to switching and using the cloud lists the following noteworthy points:


  • Know where you are – It is always important to evaluate your business’ current IT infrastructure. Once that’s been done, compare and contrast your current needs with your future requirements. Doing this will enable you to see clearly what is essential to stay on-site and what can go to the cloud.


  • Pick the “right” cloud – There are several types of cloud services (public, private, hybrid, on-premise, off-premise) and it is vital to pick the right one. However, if you have thoroughly considered step 1, this shouldn't be an issue.


  • Find a plan – By plan we mean your preference to pay. Cloud services are flexible, offering business to pay monthly, per licence, per user or simply by the amount of space they use. This does not only affect your direct costs, but in the long run, it has an effect on your indirect costs. Think about labour vs. productivity.




Now that you have put down the foundations of adapting to the cloud, it’s time to think about further points:

  • How can it make me work better? – Having an internet-enabled device (laptop, smart phone, or tablet) is all you need to access the cloud and everything on it. Now you and your colleagues are able to work from home or on-the-go and also connect with each other in real-time.


  • How secure is it? – First and foremost it is important to find a trusted provider and to ensure that data sovereignty remains under your control. If this is done, take a deep breath, your data is going to be safer than it would be on your internal servers. After all it is going to be protected with latest security measures and looked after 24/7 by IT professionals.  


  • Is the cloud environmentally friendly? – Switching from on-site servers and hardware to hosted services will significantly reduce your company’s carbon footprint. Apart from this, the switch will also result in decreased energy usage, saving on utility bills.


  • How is IT easier with the cloud? – Simplicity is, without doubt, one of the major advantages. There’s no need for visits from IT professionals to fix problems, there’s no need to worry about taking care of the physical hardware and there’s no need for manual updates, everything is done through the cloud.


  • What if something goes wrong? – Cloud computing offers simple and effective disaster recovery. Since cloud services back up data in real-time, there’s no need for back up processes on a regular basis. 


  • Does it really help to grow my business? – With the help of cloud services there are no more restrictions. You have 24/7 access to all your data, so you may work anytime, anywhere.

It is worthwhile to bear in mind that the aforementioned points constitute only a segment of Fasthosts’ Introduction to Cloud computing, for further information read the full version.

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Apprentices firing it up


By 


“I counted them all out and counted them all back” - our instructor quoting Brian Hanrahan's words. 

Following the success of Ben Sykes, Firebrand can be proud, yet again. Six committed and hardworking apprentices decided to take on a real challenge and achieve an extra certification, on top of the ones in their training content. Needless to say, they all succeeded and acquired CompTIA's NETWORK+ certification. 

From left to right: Josh Farrar, Alex Shaw, Bradd Merner, Ryan Curtis, Rory Edwards, Ryan Simson

If you want to read more about our scheme, go to our Apprenticeships site. 

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Monday, 12 August 2013

Fixing training, an exam at a time


By 


Why is your business training not working?


Training is broken. Employees are failing to remember what they learnt on the courses and for many the only solution is to re-learn the syllabus from the coursework.

Most businesses enter training with some sort of apprehension. No matter how well the course has been sold to you there’s always the nagging doubt that it’s going to be a waste of money and that the employees will come back from the course with a smile on their face, but an empty brain.




Ask anyone back from a training course what they learnt on the course, and no doubt they’ll happily reel off a list of acronyms and highlights. But the truth is the majority will already have forgotten most of their course, and when they’re asked to remember some technique they learnt, in a week’s time or a months’ time, they will need to go back to the coursework and learn it all again, that’s if they can find the solution in the coursework?

Most training just doesn’t work


Over the years there has been a wealth of academic testing and experimentation on training and training methods, and a lot of it makes quite depressing reading- especially if you’re spending tens or hundreds of thousands a year on skilling-up your workforce. The hard fact is that most training just doesn’t work.

Let’s take a look at the solutions out there; 

E-learning and class teaching


The great new hope for training has been online e-learning and massive open online courses (MOOC). For the employer they tick all the boxes. It’s something your employees can do when they have “free time” and doesn’t require time out of the office. It allows students to learn at their own pace and it’s cheap. But what research* has found is that online training can be ineffective for those struggling with a subject, it won’t help users to remember the coursework any better than classroom training, and it only usually teaches what’s in the curriculum, which for certain IT courses forms only part of what is tested in the exam.  

Classroom training is - let’s face it - just like being back at school.  The atmosphere and techniques can make students nervous, the training can be very dry and a day of training can feel like “death by PowerPoint,”  plus students are away from their desks so spend any free periods and evenings catching up on emails and as with e-learning the research shows classroom learning has the same problems with understanding, and information recall.   

So what’s the solution?


Research carried out over the last 100 years shows that the most effective way to improve a student’s chances of learning, and being able to apply what they’ve learnt in a week or a months’ time is to adopt a policy of continuous testing throughout their training. In an academic study Ten Benefits of Testing and Their Applications to Educational Practice** the researchers found that all the evidence from repeated testing pointed to it being one of the most successful strategies for learning.

In one test students were told a story illustrated with pictures. After the story, one group of subjects was told that they could leave and return a week later for a test. A second group was given a single test that lasted 7 minutes, and the third group was given three successive 7-minute tests after the learning phase.  Immediately after the test the group that were tested on the pictures once recalled an average of 32 pictures and the group that recalled them three times recalled 32, 35, and 36 pictures (their performance increased across tests, a phenomenon called hypermnesia, another benefit of repeated testing).  

Repeated testing produced an 80% improvement in recall


When the same groups were tested a week later the first group who had been allowed to leave and had not been tested, recalled just 17.4 pictures, those who had been tested once recalled 23.3 pictures, and those who had previously been tested three times recalled 31.8 pictures. That’s an 80% improvement in recall compared to those who had no tests, and shows virtually no loss in recall across the week. Whereas those who hadn’t been tested were only able to recall 17.4 pictures a week later, demonstrating a memory loss of almost a half (45%) over the week.

Accelerated Learning


At Firebrand we have applied this learning and used it in our Accelerated Learning methodology which uses a combination of Lecture, Lab and Review, providing a more effective way to retain and learn information an importantly includes frequent testing .

With Accelerated Learning; trainees learn in a closed environment where there are no distractions or time restrictions. They are taught using a course based on a combination of real-world experience from the trainer and the other trainees and the course’s official curriculum. This is then followed immediately by practical testing in our state-of-the-art labs - the labs are available 24 hours a day – which gives the trainees a chance to fully immerse themselves in the subject and use the training they have just been given. Additionally the instructor is on hand in the labs should they need to quiz them on subjects they don’t understand. Finally trainees are tested while they’re still at the training centre, and given immediate access to their results and as well as help and feedback by their instructor.

To learn more about Accelerated Learning and how it can help your employees understand and retain information better then get in touch with one of our Managed Account Consultants.

Editor's notes

* Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques:  Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology - John Dunlosky, Katherine A. Rawson, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Mitchell J. Nathan, and Daniel T. Willingham - Psychological Science in the Public Interest – 2013

** Ten benefits of testing and their applications to educational practice - Henry L. Roediger III, Adam L. Putnam and Megan A. Smith- Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Volume 55 - 2011


About the Author:       
Frank is managing director and partner at Firebrand Training. He has over 20 years of experience in business development, account management and IT training.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Ben Sykes – the success story of an apprentice


By 


It is our pleasure to write about an exceptionally committed young man, who has proven himself a true firebrand. Ben Sykes, a Firebrand apprentice of Supplenta Ltd. has accomplished a great set of goals during his time in the apprenticeship scheme. Not only did he become a valuable member of Supplenta, but he also got nominated for the Microsoft Apprentice of the Year award.


The story is already a success as it is, but it gets better. Thanks to Ben’s hard work and his manager’s dedication and guidance, he managed to score 100% on the first sit of his MTA Networking Fundamentals exam, which is truly outstanding.

Ben Sykes and his manager at Supplenta, Simon Harris
Ben Sykes and his manager at Supplenta, Simon Harris

In a recent article Ben said: “For me the apprenticeship was the perfect opportunity to go to work, earn some money, and get to learn the stuff I enjoy while I am at it… Being someone who likes technology I thought that the Microsoft apprenticeship would be great because I get to learn on the job and at the end I will have a Microsoft accreditation under my belt. I have also been able to get out of the school environment and get into the working world. 

I have been tasked with answering the phones to customers. I have been doing phone and email support whilst at Supplenta… Each of the weeks I have been away for training at Firebrand has been brilliant, I have been able to pass all of the MTAs and the Comptia Server+ without requiring any retakes which is a complete turnaround since last year at college, the apprenticeship was the perfect thing for me and I am still happy to this day to be a part of it."

Stories like Ben’s demonstrate the great potential in youngsters, as well as the need for continuous support and boosts to apprenticeships! Congratulations Ben!

If you want to become the next success story as a Firebrand apprentice, go to our Apprenticeships site. 

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Boris Johnson boosts apprenticeships drive with £1.5million fund for SMEs


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The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has allocated £1.5million to help small and medium-sized businesses (SME’s) in London to take on young apprentices in his continued campaign to boost employment opportunities in the capital. 
Apprenticeships.org logo

The £1.5million fund means that SMEs can apply for a £3,000 incentive payment through the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). The London AGE 16 to 24 is available for London based SMEs with up to 1,000 employees, which are recruiting an apprentice aged 16 to 24.

The incentive was introduced on the 10th June 2013 is open until the 31 December 2013 (grants will be issued on a first come first served basis). Employers must employ an apprentice for a minimum of 12 months. Nationally, the incentive payment available to employers is £1,500. It’s been estimated that the fund could help to create a further 1,000 new jobs in London.

There are over 800,000 SMEs which combined generate a turnover of £430 billion. The Mayor believes the SME sector is crucial to the strength of London’s economy and especially important in ensuring that young Londoners find work and climb the career ladder.
In the most recent employment statistics, it was found that private sector employment is up by 6.5% in London, compared with 3.2% in the rest of the country.

The investment is part of a £111million pot secured by the Mayor from the Government's Growing Places fund to support the work of the London Enterprise Panel (LEP).  The LEP is investing the money in sectors they have prioritised as crucial for London’s growth. This includes support for:

  • Small and medium businesses
  • Infrastructure development
  • Raising skills and employment opportunities
  • Boosting growth in digital, science, technology and creative industries


There have been over 100,000 apprenticeships created in London since 2010 by the Mayor's campaign with the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). In his ‘2020 Vision: Ambitions for London’ publication he sets an ambitious target of creating 250,000 by the end of 2016.

Boris Johnson, says that “Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the capital’s economy and central to providing employment opportunities for talented young Londoners. Companies that have already taken on apprentices know the difference they can make to the bottom line and so we want to encourage more firms to get on board. This incentive is aimed specifically at SMEs and I’m urging company bosses from all corners of the capital to check out how it can benefit them and the wider London economy.”

The Divisional Apprenticeship Director, Vic Grimes, stated that “Apprenticeships deliver for businesses, young people and the economy which is why we work extremely hard to help employers in the capital to expand their Apprenticeship offering. There has never been a better time to recruit an apprentice and we are delighted to welcome the additional incentive now available to SMEs in London.”

The Mayor’s Ambassador for Training and Enterprise, Tim Campbell stated that “The welcome news that the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers has been increased to £3000 for eligible SMEs is exactly what will encourage more firms to take on their first apprentice.” He added that “SME owners who have already taken on apprentices have seen the huge value that motivated, productive and loyal young people bring to their small businesses and I’d urge more to step forward and make use of the financial support that’s available to them.”  

The funding incentive for SMEs announcement came shortly after the Mayor launched a new travel scheme for apprentices, which allows anyone in the first year of an apprenticeship to get 30% off the adult rate Travelcards and Bus & Tram pass season tickets. The scheme is expected to benefit around 40,000 apprentices living and working in the capital and could save an apprentice up to £660 a year on the cost of an annual travel card. If you want to find out more about the discount, go to: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/27809.aspx


ApprenticeshipsIf you are interested in finding out more about employing apprentices and the benefits they can bring to business, complete the Apprenticeships.org form or call 08000 150 600. You can also find out more on the Enhanced London AGE 16 to 24 FAQ page.

Firebrand Apprentices

Firebrand offers a government-funded work-based IT training programme for 16-24-year-olds, that’s designed around company needs and results in recognised IT qualification for the apprentices. The courses last for a year, and during that time Firebrand takes apprentices away for five weeks of intensive training, which is backed-up with continual assessment while they’re at work. Firebrand assesses and recruits employees, and trains them on Microsoft and City & Guilds courses throughout the year-long course.

Why hire an apprentice?

Firebrand Apprentice
Firebrand Apprentices
With an apprenticeship course, often all you pay is the apprentice's wages – typically £150-200 a week and substantially less than a graduate starting salary. All the training costs are government-funded – saving businesses up to £15,000. 

You can find out more about Firebrand apprentices here: http://www.firebrandtraining.co.uk/apprenticeships

About the Author:
Julian writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Julian is the companies Digital Marketer.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The secrets of a modern IT infrastructure for small businesses


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In today’s business world, IT infrastructure plays a major role and without a solid foundation there is little chance for long-term success. The laymen may believe that this so-called solid foundation is of high cost. Well, it might not be cheap, but it shouldn't cost you a fortune either. Having the latest and most expensive equipment is great, but far from compulsory. So, instead of spending a lot of your hard-earned money, try optimizing your infrastructure.  

It’s important to get things right and it is no different in terms of your optimal IT infrastructure. If you wish to create the aforementioned solid foundation, you have to take the following factors into consideration:

  • Ideal size
  • Server-Workstation ratio
  • Platform diversity
  • Speed

Each business is unique and what works for one may not work for another. Bearing this in mind, you should consider the workload and its complexity, in order to determine the number of people you need in your IT department.

However, ideal size does not only mean people, it also relates to the build-up of your network. Getting the server-workstation ratio right is essential, if your infrastructure is to function properly. According to TechRadar, “for most businesses a ratio of one server to 10 users is about right.” So if you are running 10 workstations, think 2 servers, because you will need a backup, right?   

Of course, it’s not only about size. Diversity, in terms of your platforms is also vital. In order to escape the headache caused by a full shutdown, it is useful to mix it up a little bit and use both PC and Macs as workstations.

Once you have got all these right, you just need to make the network fast. Matching your hardware and software correctly is important to minimize slowdowns. The unwritten rule is to spend around 20% of the server costs on networking equipment.


Building a modern and well-functioning IT infrastructure is sometimes hard, but useful guidelines are always available. For in-depth discussions and tips on IT infrastructure check out Modern Infrastructure by TechTarget. 

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Kodu – programming game for kids


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Kodu Programming for KidsTry to teach programming to a 10-year-old. It won’t be easy, unless you do it the fun way, with Kodu. Kodu is a visual programming tool developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs with the purpose of teaching basic programming skills to children, whilst they are playing on their PCs or Xbox.

Since the revelation of Microsoft’s intriguing Project Spark at this year’s E3, Kodu has recommenced to receive recognition. Although the former is “far grander in scale” (WPCentral) parallels between the two are still drawn, which place Kodu on the radar.



In Kodu, anyone can create a game let it be young children or adults. It’s easy, good fun and requires no design or programming skills. Isn’t it great?  And that’s not all. According to FUSE Labs “Kodu Teaches more than Programming”:

  • Kodu is a rich tool for narrative creation and storytelling
  • Kodu demonstrates that programming is a creative medium
  • Kodu helps children with critical thinking, breaking a complex goal into manageable steps, and iterate on the design process – an approach applicable to all academic subjects, business and personal relationships
  • Kodu introduces the logic and problem solving of programming
  • Kodu introduces conditions and sequences, which teaches cause and effect
  • Students learn about cooperation, logic and creativity in addition to programming

what most schools don't teachAs we mentioned earlier this year, “the career opportunities for coders is vast”, so it cannot be early enough to start, but only in 1 out of 10 schools do children learn coding.

You can check out the original video on Code.org's YouTube page - What most schools don't teach

“Children are the future of our world” and Microsoft seems to agree, hence the creation of this unique game. 

About the Author:       
Peter writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself.