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The Apprenticeship Levy: the opportunity for UK businesses

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

Few businesses would turn down the chance to hire or upskill their IT and tech employees at a fraction of the current cost. In fact, this opportunity is available from as early as this month thanks to new legislation. From 6 April 2017 the funding of apprenticeships will be revolutionised as Government introduces the Apprenticeship Levy.

Government is set to contribute 90 per cent of the cost of an apprentice for your business, including training and recruitment costs. This means firms can overhaul how they recruit and train IT staff to make your business more competitive. But where do you start? Firebrand, a leading provider of accelerated training and an established apprenticeship provider, is here to explain the opportunity. 


Apprenticeships are understood to bring benefits for businesses and employees by combining working, learning and earning. Through an apprenticeship, businesses can bring in fresh, loyal staff who can boost productivity. Data from the National Apprenticeship Service reveals that apprenticeships boost productivity to businesses by on average £214 per week. Yet, apprenticeships aren’t just for new staff. Businesses have already found that apprenticeships enable businesses to grow their skills base resulting in increased profits, lower prices and better products

The new Levy means that now UK-based employers with a salary bill of over £3 million must invest 0.5 per cent of this figure in hiring apprentices or developing existing staff. This cash will be transferred to an Apprenticeships Service account, but if it's not used it will be permanently lost. This is a huge opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted by employers. Yet, according to recent City and Skills Group research, a third of employers liable to pay the new Apprenticeship Levy aren’t even aware of its existence. Are you at risk of losing out on investing this money wisely? Or are you one of the smaller businesses that will now find apprenticeships more affordable? For companies of all sizes how you make the most of this opportunity is vital.


Apprenticeships are a great way for businesses like yours to ensure they are training employees in the IT skills required for your specific company. This is why apprenticeship participation has reached a record high. With training schemes becoming more affordable with the Levy introduction, it is expected that the popularity of apprentices will only increase. After all, the National Apprenticeship Service data shows nine out of 10 employers find apprenticeships deliver for them, whilst 75 per cent report that apprenticeships helped their business improve the quality of their product or service. But, where should you focus your Levy spend?

Forward-thinking companies are using the Levy to plug gaps in their current business needs. For example, a total of 94 per cent of firms believe IT security is important, but only 56 per cent have a strategy in place to deal with it, according to a study hot off the press from the Institute of Directors and Barclays. The Levy provides a huge opportunity for businesses to boost their cyber security workforce with little to no cost for the employers themselves.

Why cyber security? 

Cyber security is a real and current threat to businesses in all sectors and of all sizes, with two thirds of large UK firms targeted by cybercriminals in 2016. Companies rely more and more on online and digital skills to maintain everyday business. Alongside the rise in areas such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, vast amounts of data are stored digitally for all different sectors, from political to medical. Yet, the importance of cyber security has been lost on general industry for many years. With new online trends constantly emerging, cyber security must be a priority consideration for all businesses. Recent innovations such as IoT have resulted in a serious lack in the specific security skills to deal with connected devices, resulting in routinely hijacking. Not only do these hijacking incidents cause disruption to day-to-day business and damage a business’ reputation but can be extremely costly. The global cost of cybercrime is predicted to reach £4.9 trillion annually by 2021, so businesses need to start paying attention.

Now it’s all about playing catch up. Yet, there aren’t enough people that really understand cyber threats and are trained in how to both protect companies from them and respond to attacks. This is not just a UK problem. There will be an estimated worldwide shortage of 1.5 million cyber-security professionals by 2020. The impact of this lack of cyber security skills for businesses is vast, which is why it is essential for current IT teams and the future generation of cybersecurity professionals must be expected to both defend against relentless hackers and develop intelligent systems of their own. If there aren’t enough experts to recruit, the Levy can help your business to build its own. 

Firebrand is the pioneer of five cyber-security apprenticeship programmes that are now ready to fill crucial roles left vacant by the skills gap. By using the Levy in this way UK firms can leverage apprenticeships to overhaul how they recruit and train their existing teams to become IT security professionals.

How does it work?

Firebrand is the first UK training to deliver the new Cyber Security Apprenticeship Standards. Apprenticeships offer both entry-level and established IT professionals the opportunity to build their IT knowledge and enhance their skills through accelerated training in a real-world job.

Unlike other programmes, Firebrand apprentices aren't on day release - they're a full-time employee. The programme includes up to 18 days intense, residential training throughout the year. Between these training weeks, the employer can focus on giving the apprentice the best work experience possible.

For businesses the training ensures their level of preparedness in case of a cyber-attack is increased, with the right staff sharing the right skills whatever your sector or workforce size.

With the launch of the Levy, huge businesses opportunities exists – now all you have to decide is how will you accelerate your apprenticeship journey?  

Firebrand Training
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa