Rob Chapman, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Firebrand Training

Technology is fundamental in today’s workforce, and most companies have undergone significant digital transformations in order to not be left behind. This digitalisation has created fears that jobs will be replaced by machines, but in fact, according to The World Economic Forum, by 2022 it is estimated that emerging technologies will generate 133 million new jobs in place of the 75 million that will be displaced. Therefore, the amount of jobs is not the issue, but rather the skills that people have. This is because as new technologies are introduced, the demand for constantly evolving digital skills is heightening.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus how much we rely on technology and thus the critical need for digital skills and the benefits they bring to everyone around the world. The digital skills gap was a growing crisis before the pandemic, but now with many peoples’ training or education being disrupted, it is key to ensure these skills continue to be absorbed by people so that in the years following COVID-19, there is a well-trained pool of apprentices and graduates to hire from.

Maintaining commitment to learners, employers and stakeholders

To ensure that we can continue to bring critical cybersecurity and IT skills to the UK workforce during this troubling time, we have launched our Online Instructor-Led (OIL) Training, a programme that replicates our unique, intensive, in-person training online for over a thousand learners unable to travel during the country-wide lockdown. In launching OIL, we are able to maintain our commitment to our learners, employers and all stakeholders. We encourage other education providers to set up an online programme, especially to continue teaching critical skills that should not be put on hold.

Using Cisco Webex to deliver an interactive Virtual Classroom experience, we are able to emulate the physical in-person experience as closely as possible and allow for multimedia lectures and hands-on tasks - a critical aspect of learning cybersecurity and IT skills. Since launching, 1,670 learners, ranging from seasoned tech professionals to graduates and apprentices, have signed up and are undertaking courses virtually so that their education is disrupted as little as possible despite the current circumstances.

Currently, our OIL training has a hundred and ninety courses running virtually, ranging from programming in C# and cybersecurity skills such as penetration testing to Microsoft Cloud training, all of which are critical digital skills.

Coronavirus has had a massive impact on people’s education and critical training all over the world

By flexing our business, we are able to support the apprentices and professionals who rely on our accelerated training courses to build their digital skills. It has taught us that to transition into this world requires everyone to earn the skills to build it, now faster than ever. To replicate our in-person training in a virtual classroom has been a team effort, and would not have been possible without our partners, including Microsoft and Cisco, as well as innovative technology which can replicate the classroom environment and facilitate breakout sessions amongst groups.

Gavin Reynolds, a student who recently took the Certified Azure Administrator Associate course shared his experience with Firebrand’s OIL Training as incredibly positive. Prior to taking the course, he had little knowledge in the field, but with the help of our trainer, he expressed how he felt empowered to take the certified exam in the near future, as well as another OIL course.

During this unprecedented time, we must not forget about the importance of continuing to teach digital skills (or any critical skills) otherwise the long-term ramifications of this period on the workforce could be catastrophic. This time will pass and as with many crises, we will likely see a flurry of innovation that demands a motivated workforce armed with digital skills emerging. We must be prepared to rebuild (on steroids) once COVID-19 is gone.

Rob Chapman, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Firebrand Training

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