Friday, 19 December 2014

How Firebrand’s new Level 4 IT Apprenticeships can get your business £10,000


By Sarah Morgan


Firebrand Training is excited to announce an expansion to our Apprenticeship portfolio. Developed with the Government’s Trailblazer project, you can now grow your business with Level 4 IT Apprentices from Firebrand.

You’ll be able to choose from a shortlist of talented young adults, ready to grow your business. They get two years of government funded IT training worth £27,000, a weekly starting salary of £150 and your business gets incentives of £2,700 to £10,800.


Train qualified staff on professional programs

Firebrand’s Level 4 IT Apprenticeships are available right now. Your apprentice can take the following two year training programmes:

  • Cisco CCNA Routing & Switching

    Your apprentice will develop into the role of Network Engineer. They will learn how to design, install, maintain and support communications and get certifications like the Cisco CCNA. But that’s just a fraction of what they’ll learn – find out more now.

  • Microsoft Network Engineer (MCSA)

    On this programme your apprentice will learn the principles of networking and gain well-known industry certifications like the CompTIA A+ & N+, ITIL Foundation and the Microsoft MCSA: Windows 8.1

  • Software Developer

    Firebrand will develop your apprentice into the role of Software Developer. They’ll learn how to build, manage and deploy code within enterprise environments and will become high quality developers within your organisation. Plus, they’ll get professional certifications like the MCSD: Web Applications and the MCSA: SQL Server.

  • Bespoke

    Work with Firebrand to build your perfect program and create an ideal new employee. In 2015, we will be launching more level 4 apprentice tracks, including custom and bespoke programmes.


How a Level 4 Apprentice will plug the skills gap in your business

IT skills are in short-supply – the EU predicts a shortfall of 700,000 IT roles by 2015. With this shortage, it’s no surprise that businesses across the UK are struggling to find qualified new staff.

With strong backing from the UK government, the apprenticeship scheme is tackling the skills gap – making it easier for your business to get bright young employees on board. The Skills Funding Agency has announced an additional £40m to fund apprenticeship places, as well as an extra £20m to fund the higher educational element.

Level 4 Apprenticeships combine the best of on-the-job training with high level qualifications. These apprentices will give you the knowledgeable workforce your business needs to grow. In fact, 25% of employers in England rate qualified higher apprentices as 25% more employable than those who took an alternative route to work.

Hire an apprentice and you’ll quickly train someone to understand exactly how your business works. You can also develop existing staff as they work with your apprentice, through mentoring opportunities and more.




Find out more about the benefits of higher apprenticeships here.

Level 4 Apprenticeships Accelerated

We’ve worked with the Government’s Trailblazer project to bring you Level 4 Apprenticeships. And as always, we will be delivering them the Firebrand way: solid training weeks for your apprentice and more uninterrupted time spent working for their employer.



Here’s how it works:

1. We advertise your vacancy and create a shortlist of candidates, matching your business needs, for you to interview

2. Your apprentice will get 23 to 38 days of accelerated Firebrand training and IT industry standard certifications like: Cisco CCNA, Microsoft MTA Networking Fundamentals, MCSA: Windows 8.1 and ITIL Foundation v3. With accelerated learning, your apprentice will be qualified in half the time.

3. You’ll pay just £6,000 to £9,000 over two years with the government contributing double what you pay. You’ll be able to spread the payment over 18 months (interest free) and the Government will also pay you £2,700 to £10,800 in incentives.

Get access to 1,000s of applicants looking for work right now - find out more about taking on an apprentice with Firebrand’s one and two-year programs here.

But that’s not all.

Turn a talented university graduate into an IT professional, fast

If you’re looking for a more experienced employee, why not hire a graduate straight from university? Firebrand graduates all have a STEM (science, technology, engineering or maths) degree and are more than ready to enter the IT industry.

To find out more about growing your business with talented university graduates, register your interest here.

Related articles:


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, 17 December 2014

Best IT certifications for 2015


By Sarah Morgan


Getting certified is a brilliant way to prove that you are as skilled as you say you are. But a certification doesn’t stand alone – if you can’t apply it, what’s the point? Now that 2014 draws to an end, let’s take a look at some of the best IT certifications for 2015 that will advance you to the next stage in your career.

The need for qualified IT professionals is now massively outpacing the supply – it’s estimated that Britain alone will need 500,000 new IT professionals over the next five years. And with the widespread uptake of technologies, like Cloud and virtualisation, getting certified in 2015 really will make all the difference.

2014 saw a barrage of cyber-attacks inflicted upon businesses around the world. In fact, more organisations fell victim to cybercriminals in 2014 than 2013, the US State of Cybercrime revealed. And reports are already predicting an increase in cybercrime for 2015.

So from security to cloud and project management qualifications - getting certified for 2015 could be one of the best decisions you make next year. Here's our list of the best IT certifications for 2015.


1. Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2012 

Support for Windows Server 2003 ends July 14th, 2015. Using the system after end of support could cost you up to £120,000 a year in custom support. You will also lose the ability to process online transactions via Visa & Mastercard as Windows Server 2003 will fail to adhere to PCI compliance.

Despite warnings from Microsoft, estimates from HP suggest 11 million systems are still running Windows Server 2003. This could be a cripple your business, come 2015, considering the estimated 3 to 18 months it takes to migrate a datacentre of 100+ servers.

Thousands of businesses will now be migrating to Windows Server 2012, making the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification a valuable asset. Get this cert and you’ll reduce the hassle of migration and be able to make the most of your new server software faster.

Start planning your migration today (if you haven’t already) and make it a smooth process for your organisation by taking the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 course.


2. EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker

There was a 50% chance you were a victim of cybercrime in 2014, data from Microsoft revealed. The same is true for one-in-five small and medium businesses.

Certifications like EC-Council’s CEH are now becoming increasingly sought after for businesses of all sizes. After all, nobody wants to face a crippling security breach like Sony’s recent attack.

Protect your business from cyber attacks like this (image from Sony's recent breach)



























Take on the CEH in 2015 and you’ll get comprehensive ethical hacking and networking security training. On this course you’ll learn how to conduct penetration tests against your own systems. With the knowledge of a hacker at your disposal, you’ll identify and close security holes that a cybercriminal could otherwise exploit.

The CEH certification also qualifies you for a wide range of roles within IT security from Forensics Analyst to Application Security architect.


3. (ISC)2 CISSP

In the past year alone, cyber security vacancies have doubled with demand now overwhelming supply, according to data from Technojobs.

The CISSP is a global standard and widely recognised as the information and cybsersecurity benchmark cert. Achieve it and you’ll display solid proof of your rounded IT security experience as well as a common baseline and standardisation of knowledge.


Certifications like the CISSP are in demand (2014 saw a 10% growth in the average salary for cyber security professionals) as they are frequently required for the majority of senior roles within cyber security.


Protect your organisation from IT security threats of all kinds - find out how to become a CISSP.


4. Microsoft MCSA: Office 365

Take the Microsoft MCSA: Office 365 and position yourself to take advantage of Microsoft’s new Cloud focus. This is also your first step to achieving Microsoft’s new Cloud Productivity competency for your business.


Achieve this certification and you’ll use the power of the cloud to save time, money and free up your business’s resources. You’ll get the skills required to set up an Office 365 tenant, including federation with existing user identities. If you evaluate, deploy and maintain Office 365 services, or plan to in the future – this is the course for you.



5. VMware® vSphere 5.5 

Businesses continue to embrace virtualisation technology as a way to reduce cost and complexity of critical applications. ‘The always-on-business will become the norm across the globe’ writes Don Williams, Vice president at Veeam Software.

Users want continuous access and to keep up, businesses have turned to virtualisation technologies to provide this. Products like VMware’s vSphere enable businesses to virtualise their server resources and aggregate them into logical pools for use across the entire business.

vSphere 5.5 is the fix for costly infrastructure sprawl as it allows your business to run multiple operating systems and applications on a single computer. Gone are the days of having multiple servers running at sub-optimal capacity - virtualisation technology gives increased productivity by reducing physical servers and ensuring each is running at full capacity.

Learn how to apply virtualisation technology within your organisation in 2015, with VMware’s official vSphere 5.5 certification. Find out more here, but bear in mind, this certification may change with the release of vSphere 6 sometime in 2015.


6. Microsoft Specialist: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions 

Cloud technology is growing and demand for Cloud qualified professionals is growing with it. In 2014, 56% of IT departments couldn’t find qualified staff to support their cloud projects and demand for ‘cloud-ready’ IT professionals is also set to grow by 26% in 2015, IDC reports.

Microsoft's Public Cloud offering, Microsoft Azure, continues to grow with more than 1000 new customers joining everyday. After investing $15 billion in building and maintaining the global datacentres that power the Azure platform, it’s clear Microsoft have big plans in the Public Cloud space for 2015. You can tap into the demand for cloud skilled professionals by looking at the newly released Microsoft Specialist certifications focusing on the Azure platform.



If you’re a developer, the Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions certification is a brilliant way to gain a greater understanding of the Azure platform in 2015. This specialist course, built for developers, teaches you how to establish your own Azure virtual network environment, construct Azure Virtual Machines, host azure websites and design resilient cloud applications.

If you already hold the MCSD: Web Applications cert, this qualification is a brilliant way for you to get a rounded understanding of the Azure platform for 2015.

To achieve the certification you’ll have to pass the Microsoft Exam: 70-532.


7. Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

This is the second of Microsoft’s new specialist Azure certifications. With it, you’ll learn how to migrate your on-premise infrastructure to Azure. You’ll also learn how to:
  • Plan and implement data services based on SQL
  • Deploy and configure websites
  • Publish content through CDNs
  • Integrate on premise Windows AD with Azure AD
To achieve the certification you’ll have to pass the Microsoft Exam: 70-533.


8. AXELOS PRINCE2 Foundation and Practictioner

PRINCE2 is the de-facto standard for project management in the UK and is held by 63% of all project management professionals. With over a million exams taken globally, it’s already recognised as the world’s most popular project management methodology.

This qualification covers the management, control and organisation of a project. It embodies years of project management best-practice and provides a flexible and adaptable framework that suits different projects.

The PRINCE2 remains a sought-after certification for 2015 as employers continue to demand this qualification for their project management roles.


9. Microsoft MCSE: Private Cloud

The MCSE: Private Cloud certification focuses on the skills to combine Windows Server and System Centre 2012 to build a private cloud for your business. This certification requires the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 as a prerequisite. 

To boost the uptake of this already popular cert, Microsoft have launched various initiatives to help IT professionals get the prerequisites for this in-demand cloud certification.

To find out more about how to get the MCSE: Private Cloud certification, check out Microsoft Evangelist, Keith Mayer’s step-by-step guide. Or, if self-study isn’t for you, take a look at this accelerated course.


10. CompTIA A+

Many an IT professional’s career has been built upon the solid foundations of the CompTIA A+ certification. In fact, over 1,000,000 people have achieved the A+ in the past 20 years.

Major brands - like Dell, HP and Lenovo – require that their technicians are A+ certified in order to service their products. It’s even supported by government branches like the US Department of Defence.

The skills you’ll get from this certification are vendor neutral, meaning they’ll remain universally applicable across your entire IT career.

If you’re new to IT then this cert is one of the best ways to break into the industry. Take the CompTIA A+ and set yourself up with a comprehensive base of IT knowledge for 2015.


If we missed any great certifications you’re planning on taking in the New Year, please comment below!

We supported our best IT certifications for 2015 with a lot of our popular blogs from 2014, take a look at them below:



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, 16 December 2014

Top 5 MCSA: Windows Server 2012 revision resources you could be missing out on


By Sarah Morgan


As well as qualifying you to take on the role of computer systems administrator and network specialist, the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 R2 cert also opens up your progression through to the MCSE certifications.

It’s the cornerstone certification that proves you know what you’re doing when it comes to the Windows server environment. Specifically, it’s your first step towards earning an MCSE: Server Infrastructure or MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure certification, advanced and specialised certs that really set you apart as a high level IT professional . Find out which MCSE certification suits your role here.

To get the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification you’ll need to pass three exams:

  • Exam 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012
  • Exam 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012
  •  Exam 70-412: Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services

And to give you the best start possible in these tough exams, we’ve compiled some of the best resources to help you get this career boosting qualification.


1. 90 Days to MCSA


Microsoft wants to skyrocket your IT career and their 90 days to MCSA project will do just that.
3 one-hour videos, covering all 3 exams and presented by Microsoft certified trainers form the meat of the content here. But don’t approach these with the idea that they are your only revision tool. They are by no means all-encompassing and you’ll certainly have to read around to get the broader knowledge you need.

However, these resources are great. As they are created by Microsoft, you can expect the information to be accurate and reliable. Plus, the presenters are certified Microsoft trainers, so they know what they’re talking about.



Each video is also equipped with its own mini-forum where students can discuss their revision, examination and technology questions. These are very active forums too. Just a cursory glance shows that this is an active and participatory forum with official moderators and an active user base. If you have any nagging questions, about one of the three exams, this is the place to go.

That’s not all. Each exam is also accompanied by an individual wiki page. On it, you’ll find detailed curriculum relevant to each of the three exams, including links to the exhaustive Microsoft TechNet library, in which you’ll find even more information.

You’ll also find handy whitepapers, detailing individual features and functions in great depth. This will help get you the in-depth knowledge you need to get the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification. 

As some of this wiki is contributed by members of the community, Microsoft make it clear that they do not provide any endorsement on third party resources.


2. Microsoft Virtual Academy


Microsoft provides some high quality and varied Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 courses on their Virtual Academy.  You’ll find 31 courses including topics like virtualisation features, efficient networking management and new storage capabilities.
















The courses themselves are well produced 20-30 minute videos presented by Microsoft evangelists,
experts well-experienced in their chosen technologies. These videos can also be downloaded in both high and medium quality – we recommend getting all of them onto your tablet or laptop for a quick revision fix whilst on the commute or elsewhere.

Microsoft complements their Virtual Academy with a support forum. If you’re struggling with something, just ask and one of the official forum moderators is sure to answer.


3.  Mastering Windows Server 2012 R2 – ISBN: 978-1118289426


Before you take on training or start revising, make sure you become familiar with the Windows 8 / Server 2012 R2 interface. Without this prior basic knowledge, you will undoubtedly struggle on training courses and it will make your revision hard-going. Luckily, Mastering Windows Server 2012 is one way of getting up-to-speed.

Even in this age of virtual academies and video tutorials, you can never underestimate the power of a good book.  This one comes highly praised with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon (out of 37 total reviews) and glowing recommendations from our very own Firebrand Windows Server 2012 instructors.

This book gets you up to speed on the new Windows Server 2012 R2 features like Hyper-V and Storage spaces and also includes real-world scenarios to put them in perspective. But don’t think it’s only about the new stuff; this book is designed to cover every aspect of Windows Server 2012 R2 technology.

Its’ been created by Mark Minasi, a highly regarded instructor and author, alongside a team of Windows server experts led by the equally prolific Kevin Greene. Minasi is well-known for his straightforward approach to writing and his ability to make even the most complicated technologies easily understandable.

You can find this great book in paperback and kindle on Amazon for £26.99 (at the time of writing).


4. MCSA Exam study guides 70-410 / 70-411 / 70-422 by Keith Mayer


To help you prepare for your three Server 2012 R2 exams, Keith Mayer, Microsoft senior technical evangelist, has released three comprehensive study guides packed full of useful resources.
Each study guide includes hands-on exercises and resources to build your confidence with the updated R2 exam topics. Keith has over 20 years of experience and it shows. Each of these three guides contains everything you need to get up to speed with all the changes made to the Windows Server 2012 in the past year.

Plus, every study guide is brimming with links to videos, downloadable exam objectives and step-by-step tutorials. This is a collection of resources and industry insight that only a seriously experienced Microsoft technologist could compile.

Check the exam guides out here:


5. Firebrand Learn


Firebrand learn gives you access to a range of free digital learning resources like: Firebrand Official Course Material, practice tests and exercises.

As part Learn, we’ve uploaded Firebrand’s entire MCSA: Windows Server 2012 R2 course material online. It’s available for free, for everyone.

This resource was compiled by our Firebrand Instructors, professional consultants who know the material inside out.

Access your Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2012 courseware instantly on Firebrand Learn.

Some extra tips

Before you take on the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 R2 exams, we strongly recommend you get hands-on experience with the software itself. It’s not enough to just get ‘book-smart.’ See if you can get Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise on your PC and use Client Hyper-V.

Additionally, if you happen to have an extra computer, download Hyper-V Sever 2012 R2 and use this to build your lab.

Thirdly, you can try out an Azure trial – here’s a guide for that. But if you don’t have the time to build your own lab, you can get unlimited lab access during your Windows Server 2012 R2 course with Firebrand.

And lastly, don’t underestimate the exams. You can never revise too much!

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.