cyber_acadamyHigh profile cyber attacks devastated businesses in 2016 with costs to British firms hitting £34.1 billion. Headline-grabbing data breaches shattered confidence in national brands, but small businesses suffered the most with two-thirds falling victim to cyber crime in the past two years. Alex Bennett investigates.

Worse still, 60 per cent of small businesses attacked by cyber criminals were out of businesses within just six months, according to a separate study from the National Cyber Security Alliance.

To prevent these catastrophic cyber attacks, small businesses need security-skilled professionals to implement, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to bring in the skills needed. Cyber security apprenticeships are a compelling solution; here’s how apprenticeships can boost small business cyber security.

Why it’s harder than ever to hire security professionals

Demand for cyber security skills is high and UK businesses are struggling to find the employees they need. This skills shortage leaves organisations unable to defend themselves against modern cyber security threats and the consequences of failing to invest could be severe – a data breach costs a business £2.8 million on average.

Closing the cyber security skills gap should be a priority for UK businesses, but it’s an uphill battle and the UK’s cyber security skills shortage is among the worst in the world, second only to Israel. Right now businesses are largely unable to quickly and economically recruit the professionals they need. Those that can find the security skills needed will likely spend a small fortune on recruitment.

Small businesses cannot afford to fall victim to modern cyber threats but bringing on cyber-skilled staff is tough. However, there is another route to hiring and training cyber security professionals: cyber security apprenticeships.

Bring in cyber security skills quickly

Small businesses can plug their skills gap by taking advantage of two Cyber Security apprenticeship programmes. Introduced in 2016, these programmes were developed alongside industry leaders to meet the security demands of UK employers and fill the gaps left by the ongoing skills crisis.

This is an unmissable opportunity for small businesses to boost their cyber security at little-to-no-cost. Businesses that take on apprentices will gain passionate new employees that will quickly develop into invaluable members of the team.

By taking advantage of the recent apprenticeship funding overhaul (which introduced the Apprenticeship Levy) small businesses can now hire and train apprentices at a fraction of the cost.

The Apprenticeship Levy, which requires large UK businesses to invest 0.5% of their annual pay bill into apprenticeships, only applies to businesses with a pay bill of over £3 million. This means most small businesses will be exempt.

Businesses with an annual pay bill of under £3 million now only need to pay 10 per cent of the total cost of the apprenticeship (which can include free recruitment and training). The remaining 90 per cent cost is paid for by the government.

All cyber security apprenticeships available right now are based on two programmes: Cyber Intrusion Analyst and Cyber Security Technologist. Both apprenticeships are customisable and designed to allow employers to upskill people into job roles.

Cyber Intrusion Analyst apprentices can be trained to detect breaches in network security and respond to them quickly before cyber criminals can breach or hijack sensitive systems. They’ll bring cyber security expertise into your business and could develop into network intrusion, incidence response, or network operations security analysts – or whatever you’d like them to be!

Cyber Security Technologist apprentices will become experts in security, design, and architecture. While becoming valuable members of your IT team, these apprentices will also build knowledge of penetration testing, security architecture and security analysis.

Businesses that hire apprentices won’t have to do the training themselves. On these programmes, apprentices get masses of IT security training and some apprenticeship providers even include official industry standard certifications, like the renowned Certified Ethical Hacker from EC-Council.

Secure your business before the new data protection laws

Businesses must act quickly to improve their cyber security before stringent new data privacy rules are introduced. In 2018, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will become law and businesses that fall victim to data breaches risk fines of up to £17m or 2 per cent of annual turnover – whichever is higher.

With GDPR on the horizon, businesses cannot afford to delay getting new cyber security skills into their organisations. By taking advantage of cost-effective cyber security apprenticeships, businesses can get new skills into their organisation quickly, ready to face the challenges of modern cyber crime and strict data security laws.


Alex is a technical writer for Firebrand Apprenticeships. Working at the forefront of the IT training industry, Alex uses his insider knowledge to write regularly on IT apprenticeships, education and certification.