Government Apprenticeship Scheme Launches On Microsoft Azure

A new government service from the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is using Microsoft Azure to give firms more control over their apprenticeship schemes.

The ESFA, part of the Department for Education (DfE), said the service is designed to be a one-stop-shop for employers to manage every aspect of taking on and training apprentices.

With the very high cost of university education, apprenticeships are seen as a vital second route for people seeking to learn the skills needed for today’s workforce.

Apprenticeship Drive

The Conservative government, and indeed the Coalition government before it, were keen backers of apprenticeships as a way to boost the numbers of skilled workers in the country.

It comes after a recent report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation revealed that UK businesses are struggling to fill vacancies.

Positions such as engineers, IT specialists, care workers and accountants, are struggling to find the appropriate personnel.

According to Microsoft, the ESFA’s apprenticeship service is now live and runs entirely on Azure.

“We are delighted that the Department for Education and the Education & Skills Funding agency have chosen to run the apprenticeship service on Azure,” said Derrick McCourt, UK Public Sector General Manager at Microsoft

“Microsoft is proud to be able to help people learn new skills and find apprenticeships in areas they are passionate about, as well as assist companies in finding the right staff,” he added.

It seems that businesses and employees are increasingly exploring the apprenticeship scheme thanks to the Government’s apprenticeship levy. This levy applies to firms with a wage bill of more than £3 million a year will pay 0.5 percent of their payroll into the levy in order to fund three million apprenticeships by 2020.

“The Apprenticeship Levy will … put apprenticeship investment on a sustainable footing and fund growth in the apprenticeship programme,” explained Keith Smith, Director of the Education and Skills Funding Agency. “Employers have told us that they want to be in control of their apprenticeship activities and funding. They want to manage it quickly and easily, so we have designed the apprenticeship service to do just that.”

The way the apprenticeship service works is that businesses can search for the right type of apprenticeship training for their workforce. They can then locate a provider that offers the appropriate training, and set up an account to manage the apprenticeship funding.

The firm can then post vacancies online to find the right candidates and the scheme can manage payments to the training provider.

Cost Saving

“We had traditional data centres but needed an innovative cloud-first strategy,” said Smith. “Azure was cost-effective, plus our skills and the skills in our supply chain were aligned with Microsoft. We have found that by moving to a public cloud provider and working in-house with our ‘dev-ops’, we have achieved a 30 percent to 40 percent return on investment, which is significant for us in driving efficiency and value for money in the public sector.”

It was in January this year that Microsoft promised to train 30,000 public servants with cloud technology skills that will allow them to deliver better digital services.

Microsoft also launched its own apprenticeship programme in 2010 to give young people a vital first step in their ICT careers.

To date, it has placed more than 7,000 apprentices, with many of them going on to secure responsible, productive roles in their chosen businesses.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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