Bletchley Park Qufaro has teamed up with GK Apprenticeships (GKA) to develop new cyber skills apprenticeships. They are targeting mid to large enterprises who are looking to invest in their IT and security teams. It will ensure that all those completing the apprenticeship have an industry recognised qualification.
The press release gives little detail on the length of the apprenticeship and its level. Last year, GCHQ offered a three year level 6 apprenticeships. Those completing the course will have the same level of training as a cyber security degree.
Enterprise Times asked for more information. Qufaro says that it is planning to deliver two apprenticeship courses. These are:
- A 2-year level 4 course
- A 1-year level 3 course
The first course to be launched will be the level 4 course. At the moment there are no further details on pricing and the number of places.
Why level 3 and level 4?
We were interested in why level 3 and level 4 rather than the more comprehensive level 6. A Qufaro spokesperson told us it is not ignoring Level 6, it is just not focusing on it at the start as there are others that are. They added that employers, industry bodies and professionals have identified a gap at Level 3, which is why it’s something they want to look at.
It may be that many of those spoken to are not keen to commit to long-term training for their staff. The current skills shortage means that almost any recognised qualification in this field makes people highly attractive to employers. Talent retention has become almost as much of a battle as keeping hackers out of computers.
Employment a key requirement
There is also no detail on what qualifications the apprentices must have before starting the course. Last year Qufaro awarded its first CyberEPQ(Extended Project Qualification) certificates which are equivalent to an AS level. A number of those completing the course were mature students looking for new skills and jobs. It seems reasonable that Qufaro might look to promote the apprenticeship as the next level of qualification.
We also asked if this would be open to those looking to pay for their own training, students wanting to supplement a computer science degree or those looking for employment. The response we received was no. When we asked why the following statement was sent to us:
“The government rules of the apprenticeship funding state that learners MUST be in full-time employment in order for them to undertake their apprenticeship. This means we, collectively need to work with prospective employers and learners to bring them both together.
“This means it does need employer buy in for it to work (we can’t bring unemployed people in, train them and then hope they find a job).”
Qufaro could have taken the decision to set up an apprenticeship hub matching potential apprentices with employers. It would enable them to take people through the CyberEPQ and then place them in companies looking for cyber security staff. It would also widen the awareness of the apprenticeships.
What does this mean
Qufaro is right to say that: “not everything requires a level 6 qualified professional.” The focus on degree skills has been a significant block on employment in the industry. There is a distinct need for vocational training and apprenticeships fill that gap.
By offering the 1-year level 3 course, Qufaro is giving employers a way to quickly boost the knowledge and skills of their cyber security teams. The question is where do students go from there? Is it possible to move from the level 3 to the level 4? Is there another set of qualifications that they can take post the apprenticeship to further enhance their skills.
It is also surprising that Qufaro is only targeting those fully employed. It could provide a service to help those with the CyberEPQ get employed. If, as part of that, it then sold the apprenticeship option to potential employers, it seems that everyone wins.
Despite all our concerns, the availability of more cyber apprenticeships is to be welcomed.
Enterprise Times is looking to record a podcast with Dr Budgie Dhanda, CEO of Qufaro, to discuss this further.