Thursday, 31 March 2016

Discover the latest winner of Free Training for Life


In March, 2015, we relaunched our Free Training for Life competition for the third time. Up for grabs was the life changing prize of unlimited free access to our portfolio of 200+ courses, for life.

After 12 months - and more than 25,000 entries from 30 countries - the wait is finally over. I am excited to announce our winner, who will join Mario and Joseph as a holder of the illustrious prize.

And the winner is…

Congratulations to Darren Edmondson!

Darren has been working in the IT industry since 1998, where his experience has primarily been on the infrastructure management side of IT. No stranger to certification, Darren is the proud holder of MCSE (Server 2003 and NT4), PMP and ITIL certifications.

He is currently Head of IT for Gamma Telecom, where he has worked for the past 8 years. He manages a team of 13 staff, together they design and support the IT services for the company.

Now what...


Upon winning the prize, I spoke with Darren to discuss his initial reactions, he said: 

" SHOCK! I have never won a prize draw before!"

After unveiling aspirations to pursue CISSP, CCSP, CEH and PRINCE2 certification, Darren elaborated on what the prize meant for him:

"Winning the prize will give me the opportunity to get the training I’ve always wanted, but never had the money or backing to do. With the training I will be able to accelerate my IT career in the direction I want it to go. 

Going forward I will always be able to keep my knowledge up to date, and so no longer have the 'out of date' qualifications."

These are exciting times for Darren, with his track record of certifying, we can't wait to see what he does with the prize.  Check our winners page to keep track of his progress.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

New SQL Server 2014 certification update

 By Sarah Morgan


When Microsoft launched SQL Server 2014, it was announced for the first time that there were no plans to update the MCSA SQL Server certification to align to the new technology. However, Microsoft did go on to include SQL Server 2014 content for the MCSE: Data Platform and MCSE Business Intelligence curriculum and exams.


MCSA: SQL Server update details


On February 17th 2016, the industry was surprised with changes to the MCSA: SQL Server exams announced via Larry Kaye on the Microsoft Born to Learn blog.

The MCSA: SQL Server exam will now include content and measure skills on SQL Server 2014 as well as 2012. This is to keep the certification relevant, proving database professionals skills on both versions of SQL Server.

The certification will now be re-branded to reflect the updates and will now be called MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014. The following exams, aligned to the certification, will now include the SQL Server 2014 content:

  • 70-461 : Querying Microsoft SQL Server
  • 70-462 : Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
  • 70-463 : Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server

How does this affect current MCSA: SQL Server 2012 holders?


While current MCSA: SQL Server 2012 holders will obviously not have studied SQL Server 2014 skills or practices, this update doesn’t require existing certification holders to take action. They will have their transcript updated to reflect the new name of the certification.


The future of SQL Server and the MCSA


Looking to the future, Microsoft SQL Server 2016 is on the horizon. Whilst Microsoft have not yet announced a planned release date, they have revealed some details and features SQL Server 2016 will likely bring, and you can check these out here. There is a completely new Microsoft MCSA: SQL Server 2016 certification to accompany the technology’s release date. This is likely to be available soon after the release of SQL Server 2016 itself.



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, 10 March 2016

5 reasons why you should get your TOGAF certification

 By Sarah Morgan


Getting TOGAF certified proves you’re at the top of the enterprise architecture field. It helps you learn and demonstrate a full understanding of the reasons behind every element of its structure. It also gives you the ability to develop and re-organise your business architecture to fix its shortcomings.

As great as this is, there a many more benefits of TOGAF that exceed this, making you more valuable to your business and the rest of your team. Plus, there are industry-wide factors that are fantastic motivation to get TOGAF certified. Below is a breakdown of the five best reasons you should invest in your skills, aiming for the pinnacle of enterprise architecture, TOGAF certification.


1. TOGAF Demand is soaring


One huge reason to get your TOGAF certification is because the demand for enterprise architects is soaring. The UK is the global leader in TOGAF certified professionals, accounting for around 16% of all TOGAF certifications worldwide. From 2013 to 2014, the number of newly certified TOGAF professionals increased by around 11,000 (around 45%). These figures give you a sense of the rate at which the certification is growing as well as its popularity in the UK. The momentum TOGAF currently has, is down to the demand for more TOGAF certified professionals. 

One cause of the rise in demand, is that more people in IT and other sectors are realising the long term importance of enterprise architecture and its certifications. As IT technology and architecture advances and becomes more prominent in all parts of business, it’s becoming equally important to plan how your business’s enterprise architecture will be managed in the short and long term. If you don’t do this, businesses face the risk of their technology and architecture becoming obsolete. This is why businesses are looking for more TOGAF certified professionals, and why you should look to get certified and take advantage of the growing demand.


Image from The Open Group blog



2. Learn a common language


TOGAF certified professionals share a common language and a common knowledge of expertise. This is a fantastic skill to possess. As it’s unique to enterprise architecture professionals, it’s a great asset to help fuel the development of IT and enterprise architecture. 

This language and its skills also have the potential to improve your management skills. A main aim of TOGAF is to show you how to better identify the needs of your business. Once you learn the language of enterprise architecture, you’ll be much better placed to guide your team, and the business as a whole to meeting these needs, making you a better manager.


3. Better meet your organisation’s demands 


Another principal aim of TOGAF is to teach you how to meet the demands of your organisation most effectively. This means identifying how the IT budget is being spent and then finding areas where the budget could be spent more effectively. On top of this, TOGAF aims to teach you how and where teams have the potential to fit together better. Combined, these skills make the running of your business far more fluid.

This is an area where a TOGAF certification can make a big difference. Learning how all the different parts of the business fit together, gives you the ability to spot how these processes can be streamlined. This reduces costs and friction, making departments and the business as a whole, more efficient. TOGAF can give you the ability to take on the role as the simplifier in your business and is a great way to impress managers and directors as its insight hard to come by.


4. More trust from employers, clients and colleagues


We’ve already mentioned that the skills you’ll learn from the TOGAF certification are valuable and unique. On top of this, as TOGAF is a globally recognised certification, it brings a high level of trust from your customers, employees and colleagues. This helps reduce friction in the management of enterprise architecture. Getting certified increases your reputation, demonstrating you have proven,  elite level skills.


5. Great investment in your future


Building upon the previous point, getting certified can increase your worth to businesses. This could mean a potential pay rise after achieving your certification. As a whole, getting TOGAF certified is a fantastic investment in your skills and your future. According to itjobswatch.com, someone who is TOGAF 9.1 certified commands an average salary of £67,500. Also, because of its growth in demand, more industries are realising the importance of enterprise architecture, meaning TOGAF is becoming increasingly versatile and applicable to a variety of job roles. A final reason why TOGAF is a solid investment in your skills, is due to its position at the top of the enterprise architecture field. This means once you’re certified, there is no great need for further enterprise architecture certification, increasing the longevity of your investment and the value of your certification.

TOGAF is one of the most popular enterprise architecture certifications that many EA professionals should be aiming for. This is due to its versatility, longevity and return on investment in many areas. It’s growing in demand, is applicable to many different industries and job roles. It can improve fluidity and efficiency in the running of many business areas, as well as providing you with great career prospects. Make sure that the certification is right for you and your area of business, but if you think it is applicable and you’d benefit from enterprise architecture skills, TOGAF is an excellent certification for you.

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, 8 March 2016

Trailblazer IT apprentices leading the path for women in tech

 By Sarah Morgan

The number of women in the technology industry is growing at a rate of 238% faster than men, according to Sphero, showcasing the wide road being paved for the future women in IT.

With the theme of International Women’s Day 2016 #pledgeforparity, Firebrand celebrates the next generation of young women breaking the glass ceiling for girls in tech in the 21st century.
We have historically done a disservice to the multitude of women in the IT industry by allowing so many to exist in relative anonymity, relying on famous figureheads like Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook when referencing the industry.

Female apprentices paving the way for women in tech

While underrepresented as a whole across STEM subjects, there is an increasing number of high profile women pushing the technology agenda forward such as Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo). Firebrand’s female IT apprentices gave their thoughts on how the industry can inspire more young women:

Kimberley Bolton, Microsoft Apprentice of the Year 2014

Highlighting the importance of both men and women being role models for girls in tech, Kimberley says, “Many of the males I've worked with have been the foundations for my achievements and I'm lucky to have made great friendships with many of them.”

Jamila Telliam, Support Technician

“I believe the interest should be encouraged from home as well as in school and it's great that schools are encouraging young people to start coding.”

Guen-Ziu Dang, IT Support Technician

“My apprenticeship facilitator has been in the IT industry for more or less than 10 years. Hearing her stories (what companies she used to work for, how she got to where she is) really inspired me and I’m grateful to have her look after me as an apprentice.”

Jane Simmons, Developer

“If anything, now is the best time for women to show interest in IT. They are more likely to be taken on and accepted by companies for work experience and apprenticeships because the computer world needs more of them - for fresh ideas and a new way to look at the field.”

Inspire a generation of female IT pioneers with Trailblazer apprenticeships 

For over three years, Firebrand has been opening the doors to future female leaders in IT, giving them a route into in an industry historically dominated by men. With IT apprentice employers nationwide hiring female apprentices, Firebrand is inspiring the future generations of women continuing to inform, educate and develop cutting-edge technology by delivering higher and intermediate  trailblazer apprenticeships.  

To grow and develop an IT apprentice with Trailblazer apprenticeships, call us free on 0800 081 6022 or enquire online.



Monday, 29 February 2016

2016's Cyber Security skills gap

 By Sarah Morgan


The growing IT skills gap and its implications for the global economy is a known issue throughout the industry. It’s the net result of an industry outpacing the supply of professionals needed to facilitate employer demand, effectively stifling growth. Cyber security is an area within IT where the demand for professionals continues to grow. This is due to greater number and publicity of cyber-attacks on all businesses. If not addressed, implications could be serious with attacks likely to continue to grow in frequency and severity.

ISACA are makers of major security courses like the Certified Cybersecurity Practitioner CSX, CISA, CISM and CRISC, and they’ve recently produced an infographic that has revealed some interesting and eye-opening statistics. These statistics have come from surveys conducted by ISACA themselves, as well as IBM’s 2015 Cost of Data Breach Study, UK House of Lords Digital Skills Committee and more. As providers of certifications to cyber security professionals, ISACA are using these statistics to help close the gap where the crucial IT security skills are most needed, as well as increase awareness about the skills shortages. Below, is a breakdown of each stat highlighted by ISACA and their individual and collective implications on the IT industry. Make sure you check out the ISACA infographic at the bottom of the post.

The costs of the cyber security skills gap


In 2014, $1 billion worth of personally identifiable information (PII) was stolen. This means there have been many more stolen since, through 2015 and beyond. As large as this figure is, more unidentifiable records that cannot be traced are highly likely to have been stolen too. This marks a huge amount of money stolen from businesses and economies. On top of this, there are the costs beyond money, like the breach of a customer’s privacy. This type of cost can mean stolen passwords, accounts, addresses, phone numbers or credit card details. These damages can cause loss of personal finance, credit card fraud or even identity fraud. Combined, this shows how cyber security threats are heavily draining businesses and individuals. 

Unfortunately, the severity of these financial implications appears to be increasing. It is estimated $150 million will be the average cost of a data breach by 2020. This is roughly £107 million. The 2015 average in the UK was £1.46 million, more than doubling the 2014 figure of £600,000.This staggering figure, as well as the soaring increase, shows the need to increase security in all businesses, now. Technology and hacking techniques are continuing to advance and if your security is not sufficient and updated, you could be left vulnerable. The huge figure, as well as it’s meteoric rise, forces business managers to take company-wide action, rather than dumping the burden entirely onto IT departments.

97% of security professionals surveyed in ISACA’s 2015 APT study believe advanced persistent threats (APTs) represent a credible threat to national security and economic stability. These opinions come from knowledgeable professionals within the security industry, which is reason enough to take notice of this imminent and serious threat to our businesses and economy. Many businesses ignorantly and naively settle for sub-par IT security systems, but every business is a potential target and if you are not prepared, the consequences could be crippling.

The regularity of cyber security breaches


In the same ISACA survey, professionals from 1 in 4 organisations have experienced an APT attack. This shows the regularity of cyber attacks, as well as how widespread they now are. It’s also worth mentioning that 3 in 4 organisations also believe they will be targeted in the near future, again reiterating how every business needs to be aware and prepared for cyber attacks.

1 in 2 believe the IT security department is unaware of all of the organisations Internet of Things (IOT) devices and 74% believe the likelihood of an organisation being hacked through IOT devices is high or medium. In our increasingly connected world, there are connectivity capabilities on a staggering amount of devices, in our business and personal lives. All of these devices have the potential to become avenues that hackers can target to infiltrate a business. It is important for everyone in the company to be aware of the potential security risks, especially the IT department.


Image courtesy of pat138241 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The need for cyber security professionals


2 million will be the number of cyber security professionals the industry will be short of by 2019. Numbers are often bandied about to estimate the number of cyber security professionals needed in the cyber security sector, and it’s difficult to determine the exact demand in the UK. However, it’s clear that 2 million reflects the trend in the current cyber security jobs market and is a worrying size considering the severity of threats. In the EMEA region, stats from (ISC)² estimate there will be 1.2 million cyber security roles that are constrained by a lack of supply in the industry. 

The growth of demand for cyber security professionals is 3x the growth of the overall IT jobs market. On top of this, when compared to the overall jobs market, that stat grows to 12x. Also, a study from US New and World Report states that demand for cyber security professionals is growing at a rate of 36.5% through to 2022. 

Looking slightly deeper in the cyber security jobs market, 64% of organisations believe just half or fewer of applicants for open security jobs are qualified. This highlights how the jobs market has become stagnant for employers due to the cyber security skills gap. At the bottom of this scale, many business are having to settle for candidates that aren’t good enough. A potential side effect is that professionals in the industry don’t have the skills to properly protect their business.


How can we develop more cyber security skills?


53% of organisations experience delays as long as 6 months to find qualified security candidates. This means it’s becoming more difficult, costly and time-consuming to find the right cyber security skills for employers to protect their business and assets. One avenue through which the skills gap can be closed is Apprenticeships. The UK government is heavily investing in cyber security, with Chancellor George Osbourne promising an extra £1.9 billion by 2020. Much of this investment will fund two new cyber security focused apprenticeships, the Cyber Security Professional and Cyber Security Analyst. Offered by Firebrand, these trailblazer apprenticeships are an excellent avenue to upskill staff, unrestricted by age limitations. 

89% of consumers believe it is important for organisations to have cyber security certified employees. Another side effect of cyber security gaining more attention, is consumers becoming more aware of its importance. Customers are recognising it’s vital for businesses to have certified cyber security professionals. By getting your security employees certified, not only will they learn and demonstrate more advanced skills, customers will recognise, value and appreciate the extra commitment to cyber security. This is another eye-opener to how important cyber security certifications are, and from a source you probably didn’t expect.

77% of women said that no teacher or careers advisor mentioned cyber security as a career – for men it’s 67%. The lack of women in IT has been a trend for much longer than the cyber security skills gap. It’s clear that the cause of this goes far deeper into society and change starts with giving children the opportunity and encouragement to get valuable IT skills at an early age. The 67% figure for men, shows the problem is not unique to women. The root of the issue is that IT security is not taught in the school curriculum. This causes children, and their teachers too, to be unaware that cyber security is a career choice – one with excellent prospects. 


What’s the solution?


The first step to help close the cyber security skills gap, is for government and business leaders to realise the dangers that the skills gap presents. Thankfully, this is starting to happen. Back in November 2015 Chancellor George Osbourne announced that the UK government was planning to invest £1.9 billion into cyber security. This type of commitment needs to continue, with business leaders and managers investing in cyber security training. This is important to give cyber security professionals the skills they need to properly protect businesses from cyber attacks. If these skills are in place throughout the UK, attacks will be prevented and the numbers reduced.

Also, the structure of education around cyber security needs to change. If the government were to introduce cyber security as part of the curriculum, it would encourage more children to choose cyber security careers. The government must continue to increase their investment into cyber security apprenticeships. This would encourage more young people and businesses to undertake apprenticeships, developing skills and successful cyber security careers. Finally, general awareness needs to increase around cyber security. This would help people take more steps to help prevent cyber attacks. These actions would change the culture of dusting cyber security under the carpet, and getting more skilled cyber security professionals into the industry to protect our businesses and economy.




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. 

Friday, 26 February 2016

Microsoft reaches landmark deal with Xamarin

 By Sarah Morgan

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced their latest major business move - acquiring Xamarin, an industry leading mobile app development company. Having previously had a long-standing working relationship with Xamarin, this deal makes the next step in allowing Microsoft to make Xamarin their sole partners in mobile app development. Building on their cross-platform vision.


Image courtesy of Microsoft the Microsoft Blog

Who are Xamarin?


Xamarin’s mobile app specialities give developers the ability to code mobile apps in one language across iOS, Android, Windows and Mac devices. Its customers, totaling around 15,000, boast names like Coca Cola, the US Air Force, UK Parliament, Bosch Siemens and more. Plus, Xamarin have been at the forefront of mobile app development for some time, creating testing methods for developers in the cloud. Xamarin were named as one of the “9 startups that run the internet” by UK Business Insider in December 2015.


Why this makes sense for Microsoft


The primary aim for Microsoft in this deal is to advance its development of a cross-platform vision. Providing an outstanding and consistent experience across all of it devices, in unison with Windows 10. As Microsoft has previously worked closely with Xamarin, the deal is a natural progression for both parties, giving them both great potential for growth.

Microsoft has been working relentlessly on growing their presence in the mobile sector. This acquisition is a landmark moment that could see their mobile app development capabilities improve significantly. Already a market leader, the skills and abilities Xamarin add to Microsoft, have the potential to establish their mobile app dominance.


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.