Alex Bennett, Firebrand Training, explains how organisations can prevent cyber-attacks by building a security team at little or no cost.

Alex BennettTo the dismay of UK businesses, 2016 set a record for the incidence of cyber-attacks. And with the largest NHS trust recently hit by a breach, there’s every sign the trend will continue this year.

With costs to UK businesses hitting £34.1bn in 2016, breaches have shattered trust and caused chaos. Three Mobile, Tesco Bank, Sage, and TalkTalk exposed millions of customer records and sensitive data because of a lack of cyber security investment.

However, this could all change in April with a new government initiative aimed at solving the UK skills shortage. The introduction of an apprenticeship levy will revolutionise how organisations recruit and train IT security professionals.

Understanding the Apprenticeship Levy

The way the government funds apprenticeships in England is changing on April 6 2017, with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.

The Levy requires all employers operating in the UK, with an annual pay bill of over £3 million, to invest 0.5 per cent of this in apprenticeships. Employers only get their money back if it’s spent on apprenticeships.

If the employer fails to invest this money in apprenticeships, they’ll lose it. So, do you have a plan in place for spending the Levy? If not, you could be losing £1,000s every month.

Now’s the time to start planning for the introduction of the Levy. To get more information on the Levy, and learn how to prepare for it, read this employer guide.

How to secure your business and close your skills gap

With the government’s Apprenticeship Levy imminent, this is the perfect opportunity to kick start your cyber security initiatives. Use your Levy to train cyber security apprentices and close your IT security skills gap.

The government has recognised the dire need for cyber security professionals and has recently introduced two cyber security apprenticeship programmes:

These 24-month higher apprenticeships - created by industry leaders (or trailblazers) - are purpose-built to fill in-demand cyber security roles across all industries:

‘We’re able to plan ahead with confidence because we embrace apprenticeships, specifically the newly approved cyber security apprenticeship,’ says Tom Hardy, Director of Service Delivery at Centerprise.

‘We immediately identified the high value in this apprenticeship, not only internally to the business, but to our customers.’

And for little to no cost, your cyber apprentices can get up to £27,000 of IT training from registered training providers. By the end of their apprenticeship they’ll be ready to start defending your business from crippling cyber-attacks. Plus, they’ll also be recognised by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, for entry onto the register of IT technicians.

Find out comprehensive information on these programmes, including what qualifications your apprentices can achieve.

With a shortfall of 1.5 million cyber security professionals in the UK by 2020, it’s now tougher than ever for employers to fill cyber security roles. Instead of spending £1,000s on recruitment, hire a cyber security apprentice (or even develop a current member of staff).

Cyber security apprenticeships cover most IT security job roles, from penetration testers to security analysts. Plus, anyone can benefit from the levy, apprenticeships allow you to both develop current staff and hire someone of any age.

Whether your organisation qualifies for the Levy or not, there’s still a massive opportunity to take on cyber security apprentices. This is your chance to protect your organisation from cyber threats and solve your IT security skills shortage.

Considering the risks that come with a lack of cyber security, can you risk not investing in it?

About the author

Supporting the government’s ‘Digital by Default’ strategy we’re keen everyone has the skills and confidence to use IT. Here, we share thoughts on a variety of digital matters.