Bridging the skills gap: Security process automation

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This is a guest blog by Jody Brazil, CEO of FireMon

One of the most pressing issues in IT security management today remains the critical shortage of skilled professionals available to address current demands.

Thumbnail image for Jody Brazil, CEO of FireMon.jpg

For example, an April 2014 study conducted by Frost & Sullivan found demand for 4.25 million security professionals by 2017, with only 2.25 million trained workers worldwide today, a 47 percent shortfall.   

The situation clearly amounts to a significant challenge and this means that today's enterprises, and truthfully organisations of all sizes, find themselves in the position of needing new methods to get more out of existing IT security teams.

One available solution is the continued maturation of technologies that automate security tasks, freeing up workers to address other responsibilities. In many cases, leveraging automation also proves advantageous in performing widespread, highly repetitive tasks using computer intelligence, allowing humans to focus on jobs that require creative ingenuity.

Network firewall management is one area where automation can maximise staffing resources and greatly improve overall efficiency. These devices, and the policies that dictate their configurations, have often been in place for many years and become overly complex and inefficient.

This situation also represents one of the most troubling aspects of enterprise security, as the lack of effective review and adaptation of network access often leads to opportunities for malicious attacks and subsequent breach incidents.

Additionally, firewall policies are constantly expanded and revised to support evolving business needs, heightening the issue. As a result of these factors, industry analysts Gartner report that "through 2018, more than 95 percent of [all related] breaches will be caused by firewall misconfigurations, not firewall flaws."

Automation is also particularly helpful in addressing firewall rules and policy management because the involved review process must be practiced continually to prevent emerging risk exposures, driven by ongoing change.

Industry experts such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) back this continuous assessment approach in nearly all of their best practices (including the NIST 800-53 and 800-41 frameworks).

This is also an area where computing intelligence is clearly preferable to manual, hands-on methodologies - in a typical enterprise this process involves the ongoing evaluation of tens of thousands of rules distributed across hundreds of firewalls.

Using humans to complete this work is neither a practical nor professionally rewarding approach, as it involves documenting each rule, evaluating it against a policy, and then reviewing this data with relevant business owners, which can take hours... per rule! To do this effectively using manual processes would result in the need for dozens of full time staffers within a typical enterprise.

It's also worth noting that leveraging such "process automation" addresses the most significant element of this challenge without putting the network or security at greater potential risk, as could be the case by automating configuration changes without human oversight.

Beyond the opportunity to free up and empower existing staff, automating firewall rules and policy review - along with related risk management tasks - advances other tasks such including mandated compliance audits (such as for PCI DSS).

By using automation tools such as FireMon's for firewall analysis, policy validation, change reporting, documentation and many other related processes, some organisations have been able to cut compliance audit staffing by over 50 percent.

To address the current security staffing shortage organisations need to help their existing employees increase productivity and cover more territory until the necessary reserves eventually arrive, if ever.

The best manner of accomplishing this goal is leveraging automation to allow security teams to do so, and automating network firewall management is a prime example of how this feat can be realised.

Why is the BBC launching Make it Digital?

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This is a guest post from Jessica Cecil, project controller at the BBC. 


Last October, director-general Tony Hall said he wanted the BBC to embrace one big education project a year. In 2014 it is World War One. I'm delighted to announce that in 2015, the BBC's new Make it Digital initiative will shine a light on the world of digital creativity and coding. And that is exactly what we are going to do. But because there's so much to highlight we thought we'd start early, so at the start of the new school year for most, we are giving a taste of what we have planned.


The very first Make it Digital examples include our brand new Bitesize guides to support the new Computing curriculum that is being introduced in England. We're also launching relevant Computing content for pupils studying the subject in curricula across the rest of the UK. Our content supports both primary and secondary school pupils as well as their teachers and parents - all under the Bitesize brand for the first time.


Alongside these BBC Learning projects we have some exciting children's programmes coming out this Autumn that will help inspire our youngest audiences to discover the digital world and to take their journeys of digital discovery further. Dick & Dom's Absolute Genius will become Appsolute Genius, Technobabble will look at the technology which will shape children's lives, and Nina and the Neurons will go digital. You can find the full detail here.


Why are we doing this? This generation of coders and computing creatives are standing on the shoulders of giants. The UK is the birth place of computer science, and pioneers such as Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing. We have just celebrated 25 years of the World Wide Web, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and we are home to game-changing games makers and entrepreneurs like Michael Acton Smith from Mind Candy and Ian Livingstone.


And the BBC has history too: back in the 80's we made a commitment to inspire a generation to get passionate about computing. We broadcast hundreds of hours of TV, created a new coding language, and gave millions their first taste of computing with the BBC Micro.  It's firmly rooted in our public service commitments and is exactly what the BBC should be doing. And in 2015 we want to capture the spirit of what we did with the BBC Micro, but this time for the digital age.


The potential for this country's future is as rich as our past, but there are dangers. Martha Lane Fox estimates we are going to need a million more people working in the technology sector over the next ten years - but right now many of our youngsters are lacking the digital skills they need.


A wealth of fantastic organisations are already inspiring the next generation. Organisations like Code Club, Free:formers, Apps for Good, Coderdojo, Technology Will Save Us and Code Academy; enablers like Nesta, Nominet Trust, the Mozilla Foundation, the iDEA initiative, and the Make Things Do Stuff movement; big companies like BT, Microsoft, Google, Intel and Samsung are all running wonderful initiatives. However, it's a very different landscape to the one we had in back in the eighties when we launched the BBC Micro. So we've been talking to people across the digital and educational communities to help us define what the BBC can usefully do here, and help us answer these questions:

·         What can the BBC do in 2015 which no other organisation can deliver?

·         What are the ways in which we can partner most effectively?


Partnerships are the key to our approach. By working in partnership with others we want to celebrate the rich heritage of this country, but we want to play our part in inspiring a new generation to get active with computing. And that has never been more important - it helps all of us be active shapers of our world, rather than passive consumers.


Our conversations have highlighted that the BBC should work with the industry, raising awareness and inspiring people to get interested in coding and digital technology.


In early 2015 we will be able to share in-depth details of what is planned and there will be something for everyone. We want to show audiences how Britain has helped shape the digital world and why digital skills matter.


We will harness the power of our biggest shows - we have so many much-loved programmes and characters that can play a role introducing people to coding and digital technology. There will be new commissions, too, including dramas and documentaries. We want to do what we do best - tell stories that inspire and move people.


We will celebrate the UK's digital heritage, raise awareness, and help some people to take their first steps into the world of digital.


All our activity will link to online resources that will help our audiences play, learn and share, with a digital hub bringing all of this activity together. There will be off-air activity too, particularly focused on children and young people. We want to help people to find the fantastic resources which already exist, including learning opportunities across the UK and online. And in some cases, the very best of what they create will find its way back on to the BBC.


There's much, much more to come in the months ahead - including what we hope will be some life changing opportunities for school leavers so what we're announcing today is just the start.


With our partners we want to have a lasting impact and ensure we work with them to make a difference.


I hope this gives a flavour of how important this project is to us at the BBC and explains how we, and the industry, believe we can inspire people. I was asked to lead this project and pull it together so we, the BBC, can bring all of what we have to help highlight what is the future, to and inspire all our audiences to create the future.


Please do let us know what you think. We will update you as we build up to 2015 when we will have much more to share.


Why the government needs to address its fragmented approach to cyber skills

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This is a guest blog by Graeme Stewart, director of public sector strategy and relations, at McAfee

Earlier this year, the Department for Business and Innovation (BIS) launched Cyber Essentials, to accredit businesses which meet certain minimum cyber security requirements. The programme makes good sense, but the way it was developed is typical of the government's ad hoc and uncoordinated approach to cyber skills.

Cyber Essentials, as a BIS initiative, is aimed at helping businesses. But the obvious advantage of a government-led scheme is it can require its own suppliers to meet those standards - guaranteeing uptake and improving government security. So why was this not a whole government initiative?

This kind of approach is replicated everywhere. The Department for Education has promoted cyber skills for children through e-skills' Secure Futures schools campaign. The Home Office also recently launched a £4m information security awareness campaign about rising threat of hacking.  The Cabinet Office's Cyber Security Challenge is working to get people interested in cyber security careers.

Whilst these programmes are welcome and admirable, the government has fallen into its usual trap of creating multiple programmes in silos- duplicating resources, using its time and money poorly. Moreover, the government is missing a trick. Many cyber security companies have resources they'd love to share with government, schools and industry. The lack of coordination means this is largely overlooked.

Rather than doling out small amounts of money to each department, government should promote collaboration between departments on cyber security.

Fans of the status quo may argue this would result in a 'one-size-fits-all' approach. That's not true - different departments would still have the right to tailor programmes. But much of the underlying information is the same.

Most departments have similar basic security requirements, so why not work together on a cyber essentials style scheme for all government suppliers? This could then have various add-ons for different department's requirements.

And the DfE should lead on school level cyber security education, but it should run one programme for schools which coordinates the various resources available from different departments and companies.

Developing such a programme could invite cyber security companies of all sizes to offer their services and resources.

Someone needs to get representatives from different departments providing cyber skills programmes, and all the vendors, in a room together and join the dots.

The government has a duty to provide public sector organisations, business, and society at large with comprehensive cyber skills programmes. But it also has a duty to spend taxpayers money efficiently.

A unified scheme is within the reach of the government if someone would be willing to take the reins. Aside from saving time and money, it will promote the idea that cyber security should be at the core of every organisation, not an add on. Imagine a major company gave its marketing, finance, legal and HR departments separate cyber security budgets. It would make no sense, yet this is what government is doling on a much larger scale.

Cyber security companies have evangelised that organisations need security by default. But only the government has the power and resources to implement national programmes, and it can only do that through a coordinated approach. It is time for the government to stand up and lead the example.

The IT skills imperative

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This is a guest blog by Jane Richardson, Director of the Oracle Academy in EMEA

The UK job market, and in fact the job market across all of EMEA, is in trouble. Despite a growing need by businesses across virtually all industries for IT-savvy employees, the skills young people are learning in school simply do not correspond to their needs.  According a report released by the Prince's Trust, two-thirds of companies fear a lack of skilled workers could jeopardize Britain's economic recovery[1].

Jane Richardson.jpgThis reality is particularly concerning when it comes to IT and computing. A growing number of businesses are beginning to appreciate the benefits of high-value technologies such as the cloud and big data. From local start-ups to global enterprises, companies across the board are in need of data scientists, talented coders and programmers, and app developers but are struggling to find graduates who can actually fill these roles.

For their part, many young people that have put time and effort into their studies find themselves unable to secure jobs in the digital age. As a result, the world is experiencing a significant, global IT skills gap which is only set to widen. In Europe alone nearly one million IT jobs are lying vacant[2], while demand for freelancers with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills is surging by as much as 300 per cent around the world[3]. This is clearly a problem that must be addressed immediately.

But why exactly is it so important that we solve this problem? In short, developing IT skills is nothing less than fundamental to the future growth of businesses. It is every bit as important as other economic levers - such as infrastructure investment - in improving the balance sheet of a country. For countries such as Greece and Spain, that have experienced slow or negative growth over the last few years, every step possible must be taken to help businesses grow. Getting the right STEM, ICT and computing skills in place is a vital first step towards encouraging job creation and future innovation.

A deep pool of IT talent is also hugely important in enabling entrepreneurs to establish start-up businesses. SMEs form the backbone of the economy. In Europe alone, SMEs form 99 per cent of all business account for two out of three private sector jobs[4]. Having employees with the right IT and computing skills allows SMEs in every industry to utilise the latest technology bringing about cost and operational efficiencies that provide them with a competitive edge.

Furthermore, one of the hottest growth sectors in the SME space also happens to be within the technology sector, with tech hubs popping up across Europe to incubate and promote these companies. Clearly, any initial success that these tech start-ups manage to achieve will be severely curtailed if they cannot find the people they need to continue fuelling their growth. The IT skills gap is, in short, severely limiting the value technology companies will have to national economies in the future. By failing to develop graduates with the right STEM and ICT training we risk cutting off the oxygen supply to these growing organisations.

All of this raises an important question: why exactly is Europe facing such a huge skills gap in the first place? The answer lies in the fact that not enough students are taking computer science as a subject across all levels of education: primary, secondary, higher and graduate level.

At the primary and secondary school levels the main barrier to taking ICT or computing subjects at school seems to centre on the lack of awareness around how taking these subjects can lead to a variety of career paths.  Female students are met with another problem: IT careers are still seen as something of a male preserve and STEM subjects as masculine ones. This year's A-Level statistics show that the number of boys taking ICT is double the number of girls, while in computing, boys outstrip girls by nine to one[5]. In light of this, it's hardly surprising that the percentage of students taking ICT or computing at a secondary school level remains so low. Last year in the UK, fewer than 10,500 students sat an A-Level in ICT, and less than 4,000 sat exams in computing.

To solve this problem and encourage future generations to engage in a more digital literate future we must get students interested in STEM subjects. One way to do this is to make it clear just how many exciting and well-paid careers ICT and computing qualifications can lead to. Retailers, investment banks, fashion designers and production studios are just some of the businesses who need cloud computing-architects, big data experts, developers, computer games programmers, and animation coders who can contribute to their success.

For the current generation of students and graduates, a great deal of opportunity lies in gaining skills that will allow them to work in any industry. Of course, it will fall to governments and educators to take heed of the growing role of IT in business and place computer science at the heart of their curricula. Together we need to build a ladder of skills that will get students of all ages interested in computing, programming and coding and enable them to become the digitally literate experts that are so important to our future.

[1] The Skills Crunch: up-skilling the workforce of the future, The Prince's Trust and HSBC, 2014





Assessing opportunities for technical skills growth in emerging economies: Skills gap or skills trap?

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Employers must act so that emerging markets can close the skills gap says Jinuk Shin, vice president and head of Corporate Citizenship Group, at Samsung.


High levels of investment in human capital and strong education systems are drivers of Jinuk Shin.jpgeconomic growth. From Germany to Japan, economic powerhouses can attribute much of their success to their heavy investment in human capital. Recently in the US, President Obama authorized federal funding for cities and states to conduct job training programs via the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which stems from the wide recognition that the nation's workforce need to be future-ready and that the widening skills gap needs to be addressed now more than ever.


For all these nations and more, skills are a precious commodity and good education systems are what set them apart from other high-growth economies that simply rely on physical capital.


So here's the challenge: how can emerging economies ensure they don't stumble as they attempt to fill their skills gap, and how can developing economies ensure their skills gap does not turn into a 'skills trap' from which there is no escape?


Nowhere are skills more in demand than in emerging economies, according to a human capital study by professional services firm PwC (Key Trends in Human Capital 2012: A Global Perspective).


At one point in time, these countries relied on cheap labor to fuel their export-driven economies. But their economic model is changing and, as a result, they have to rapidly move up the value chain - or risk faltering.


According to the Talent Shortage Survey by global employment agency Manpower Group, skills shortages prevented 45% of employers in the Asia-Pacific region to fill vacancies. In India, this number soared to 67% of employers while in Brazil, 57% had trouble recruiting the right workforce (2013 Talent Shortage Survey). Developing nations have to narrow the skills gap and "produce more workers capable of doing talent intensive jobs that require higher qualifications."


While this shortage in human capital can be seen as a weakness, it is also presents a huge opportunity for economic growth. Developing and emerging economies - with populations that are overwhelmingly young and hungry for professional advancement - can turn themselves into "factories of talent," instead of being the cheaply-staffed workbenches of the developed world.


Currently, however, the education systems in many of these countries don't provide the right kind of training that would fill the skills gap. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this claim: for example, developing countries do not have enough resources to purchase tools to build modern skills.  There are also hard numbers: in two of the fastest growing emerging economies in the world - Turkey and Brazil - nearly 10% of all companies report that poorly educated workforces are the main constraint on their growth (Lyon, S. M. Ranzini, and F. Rosati, Skills Deficit in Developing Countries: A Review of Empirical Evidence from Enterprise Surveys).


This is particularly apparent when it comes to filling jobs that require technical skills, especially engineers, technicians and IT staff. According to the Talent Shortage Survey, a shocking 71% of companies in Brazil are struggling to recruit for such posts. And in India - despite the country's many and fabled Indian Institutes of Technology - it's still a massive 48%.


Governments and education systems should not be blamed for all these problems. Rapidly growing economies will always struggle to fill their skills pipeline in an ordered way - especially given today's rapid technological climate. Skills-training designed by civil servants at their desks five years ago are obviously already outdated.


To combat these issues, emerging economies can start with the most fundamental point: the private sector is experiencing the most skills shortages. Companies that use their assets to close the skills gap - working closely with governments to leverage the resources and structure of the education system - are best positioned to boost human capital in developing and emerging economies.


Samsung, for example, is building up a global network of Tech Institutes that helps students learn engineering and technical skills after school. The program was first launched in Africa in 2011, with the goal of educating 10,000 engineers in Africa alone by 2015. Last year alone, around 7,500 students participated in the program. Training programs are also being set up in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, Ethiopia.


Outside Africa, programs are also taking place in Turkey, Indonesia and Russia. Lyagaev Ivan, who participated in Russia's Tech Institute this summer and has been a long-time employee in Authorized Service Center, said it was useful to gain principle knowledge of LTEs. A trainer at the same facility, Ilya Tolstikov, noted that his experience was "a unique opportunity for [him] to provide training for [his] partners - retailers."


The program continues to be proudly powered by our own employees: just a year after the program's launch, more than 2,000 Samsung employees volunteered to guide students through an engineering-based curriculum and helped them chart their career paths. Since it's the employees that are driving the innovation behind businesses, it's only fitting that they deploy their expertise and inspiration to those in regions that are in need of it most. In turn, our employees have much to gain. Through various similar programs, Samsung employees learn and experience other markets while having opportunities to share their insight and knowledge on a global scale.


Of course, in the grand scheme of things, these numbers are still small. We need to continue to mobilize corporate citizenship arms of other businesses to help ensure that the skills gap does not harm developing harm developing nations, and does not trap them in a culture that breeds dependency.


Private businesses have a critical role to play: they not only have a moral imperative, but it also makes business sense too. Companies can't just sit back and wait for fully trained workers to appear out of thin air and start queuing at their factory gates and office doors.


Computer science student convinces to help source hardware

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18 year old BTEC IT student James Elmour contacted Computing at School to help with finding hardware for his project where he needed to test Android mobile software applications. 

Elmour, who studies at the City of Liverpool College, was pointed in the direction of where he pitched to its IT and software engineering team on why how the hardware would benefit him and his classmates. CTM Student Placement - Portrait.jpg helped him source several Hudl tablets, which are now being used by the students and their teachers on a daily basis in the college's computer science labs.

He was subsequently given a Student Research Award by his College. 

Elmour, said: "We are really grateful for the support of Being able to use genuine Android devices for testing means we can develop bigger and better apps and make better use of all features on the device. It's definitely boosted morale and provided an incentive for higher grades."

James Lomas, IT director at, comments: "After meeting James and seeing his passion for software engineering we couldn't help but lend our support. His story truly struck a chord and we were compelled to make a contribution."

" wants to provide students with the opportunity to learn how technology works. We support coding clubs in the Cambridgeshire area, which provides amazing opportunities for our engineers to introduce primary school children to computer science and also work with universities to help develop a syllabus that produces workplace-ready graduates."

Computer Weekly partners with Create! Campaign for Appathon

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Computer Weekly is pleased to announce a media partnership with the Create! campaign's Appathon competition.


The Create! campaign was launched by Founders4Schools and SVC2UK to help students to link the STEM skills they are learning at school with creating the IT businesses of the future.

Appathon logo.jpgAs part of the campaign the 'Appathon' is a competition which tasks young people with finding tech solutions to the challenges around them.


Sherry Coutu, chairman of Founders4Schools, told Computer Weekly that secondary school students will be asked to come up with ideas for apps they would want to use, and university students will be tasked with creating them.

Winning app teams will be invited to an awards ceremony in London during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Computer Weekly will be covering the Appathon from start to finish, with insights from experts and students.

Supporting partners involved in the Create! Campaign include Apps for Good, Behind the Screen, TeenTech and Young Rewired State, Codecademy, Decoded, Code Club, iDEA, Kano, Raspberry Pi Foundation, Make Things Do Stuff, Microsoft and Cambridge University Press UK Schools.

Can you help? Technopop festival on hunt for loaned laptops, screens, Wi-Fi and more for 100,000 students

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I spoke with Technopop recently about its London festival due to take place over a course of four weeks, in East London.

Supported by Oxley International Holdings, the festival aims to provide an environment to inspire young people to consider IT in both their future careers and social lives.

Due to take place at The International Quarter (TIQ) on the edge of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, from 8 October to 2 November, entry is free for all children and students aged six to 19.

Thousands of students from all over the UK have already registered for the event, with an anticipated 100,000 to attend overall.

Understandably Technopop is on the hunt for companies willing to loan their equipment for use at the event.

They are particularly in need of laptops to be used in hackathons, Wi-Fi connectivity for the day and screens for presentations, etc.

If you work for a company that might be interested in helping out with equipment, please drop me an email at

Proving IT's value in a cloudy world: Widening knowledge and demonstrating value

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This is a guest blog from Gareth Cartman, director of digital marketing at Clever Little Design.

We've arrived at a point where most businesses - even the most sensitive - have accepted the role of cloud technology, and have even embraced it. The advantages are trotted out regularly - pay-as-you-go, flexible, secure, scalable and crucially - it's cheaper. Thumbnail image for gareth cartman image.jpg

Why is it cheaper? Because you don't need an IT department to upgrade & maintain the system for you - the cloud solution providers do it for you.

The emphasis has moved away from the technology simply because there's no need to manage the technology. And that is leaving IT departments in something of a quandary.

 Adapt or die, basically...

And for many, that means "die" 

Thoran Rodrigues calls it "death by obsolescence", and it's coming through a variety of channels:

Increased user knowledge: we know a lot more about how to manage our devices these days. Indeed, most of us can probably navigate our way around Windows, and the advent of BYOD adds in a whole other element. 

No need for infrastructure: cloud eliminates the need for servers, and therefore the need for people to maintain those servers and networks.

Better technology: compatibility is no longer an issue for many organisations - cross-browser compatibility is more or less standard, and while larger businesses are still on Internet Explorer (with its thousands of patches and workarounds), most of us have moved on to something more reliable. 

It's going to take a radical rethink of the way IT departments work, and that should start by thinking about the way IT professionals provide value to businesses. These last few years of economic downturn have put a sharp focus on ROI. Every asset is sweated, every penny needs to provide a return.

What of IT, in that case? 

Widening our knowledge

Knowledge of IT is one thing - knowledge of how IT is crucial to business performance is quite another. 

To start this, it's time to broaden out our knowledge of business processes and start to get involved at a deeper level. What is, for instance, the difference between CRM and ERP? Even if they're both provided in the cloud, there are decisions to be made at every level of the business and the choice of one over the other will have significant IT impacts. Equally, the selection of one provider over another will come with other impacts, and there is a sizeable consultancy angle here. 

Finding our opportunities

Indeed, this argument between CRM and ERP is an interesting one. While this debate may be playing out in other departments, the very fact that this technology is changing at such a rapid rate gives IT an opportunity to deliver significant value to the business. 

Knowing more about these technologies, and which ones integrate with existing systems, is going to be essential. Not everyone within an organisation is going to understand this to any significant degree, and there's a need for this level of expertise.

Furthermore, ensuring that providers respect Service Level Agreements, and that they are indeed providing the software upgrades to the level the business requires is going to be another key business requirement. Who is going to look after that? It has to be internal. It has to be IT.

Demonstrating our value

I'd go a step further from these basic business requirements and ask IT departments to look at areas where it can provide real value. For instance, how long does it take the average user to boot up a laptop in the morning? I worked in one organisation where we unofficially measured this and discovered that people spent an average of 12 minutes booting their laptops up.

In which time, they made a coffee, went for a chat with someone, and came back usually 15 minutes later.

That's 15 minutes per person, per day - wasted due to defunct IT equipment. Add on top of that the average of 15 minutes wasted due to crashes every day (on average, one per person) - then that's 30 minutes every day per person. Add that up across 200 people, and you've got... well, you can measure that. And you can measure it in pounds and pence.

What's the productivity impact of getting that time back?

That's one simple example of how IT departments can visibly measure their impact in terms that the board can understand.

In a clouded world, IT's role is changing demonstrably - by upping our game and getting in on the pounds and pence impact of quality IT provision, we can shape that new role and make ourselves indispensable again. The alternative is that we end up like most of the technology we've been responsible for - obsolete.

Employment in UK technology sector set to soar

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This is a guest blog by Sophie Christopher, head of events, PR and external marketing communications at Office Depot and Viking.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Sophie Christopher.jpgIt's safe to say that the past five years have been an extremely trying time for the UK economy. Since entering recession; Britain has seen industry sectors that were once described as sturdy and solid, such as construction, fight to survive. Although affected, the technology sector in the UK seems to have weathered the storm and has fought to maintain a level of strength, managing to still remain innovative and creative.

With positive reports on the improving economy, the first signs of recovery are being met with true optimism and those individuals who are fully immersed in the industry are pondering what's next in the technology market. According to UKTI, the technology sector is one of the largest wealth creators in the UK and has become one of the fastest growing sectors over the last decade. Recent research by Office Depot garnered unique insight into UK businesses spanning 15 industry sectors - including technology, and what was found was extremely compelling.

It's always difficult to draw realistic conclusions from what is reported in media headlines in relation to the state of the economy; however 41% of businesses owners and managing directors in technology believe that the positive reports about the economic upturn are completely accurate and representative of their sector. Our recent research was an opportunity to gain an honest overview of the sector at a grassroots level. Results revealed that 72% in the technology sector believed that business had improved over the last three months and 89% were expecting growth over the next 12 months.

This not only solidifies the general positive consensus of the sector, it also illustrates the mindset of those working in the technology field, with a focus at present to further expand not only their offering but also the value it brings to the UK economy.

As one of the most thriving sectors within the UK, recruitment is set to play a pivotal role in the industries further expansion.  Nearly three quarters of tech managing directors said that they would be recruiting this year, which would indicate a conscious and motivating step to grow the existing talent pool in order to elevate the UK's technology position further on a global platform.

What remains even more remarkable is the fact that managing directors are not anticipating the challenge of navigating a high turnover of staff, which often presents itself when positive reports about the economy become more common place. It would seem that businesses sense that employees feel content in the roles they currently hold, which is further reflected in the fact that when asked whether they feel pressure to give pay rises 55% said no. Although they don't feel under pressure, 50% did say that they would be rewarding staff with pay rises throughout 2014.

In comparison to other industry sectors involved in this research, those in technology remain confident in the future of the sector. As companies continue to push the boundaries of innovation there's a positive feeling that begins to grow in relation to the development of its fresh and original concepts - which means the sector is well on the way to meeting the vision of making the UK one of the leading technology capitals of the world.

Negotiation is the name of the game: How to get the best rates as an IT contractor

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Claire Johnson, managing director of contractor accountancy firm, SJD Accountancy, gives her top tips on negotiating the best rates for you and your business.

Working for yourself isn't just about being good at what you do, it is also persuading people that you are good at what you do.Thumbnail image for SJD claire johnson.jpg

Negotiating higher rates is often the more challenging part of contracting and the thing which some IT contractors can find difficult.

However, being good at negotiation can mean getting better rates, far higher than you would enjoy as a permanent member of an IT team. SJD's latest contractor attitude survey found that daily rates have increased by 20% in the last two years to between £ 500-£ 749.

Is this all due to how you sell yourself towards the end client? Or is the economy realising the value of contractors?

               1. Know what you're worth

Rates can vary depending on your skill set.  It's natural as humans for us all to want more money. However, no one is irreplaceable. Ensure you know the value of your skill sets and negotiate your price based on what you can bring to the company. Also have a set rate in the back of your mind, know where to draw the line and how far you can negotiate your rate. One of the golden rules is to aim high and expect to compromise.

 Negotiation is key whether going for larger, or smaller roles. If you know your own worth and know that you are in a strong position for a job - eg.  you have the experience and the ability  - and are willing to stand your ground, this can have a positive impact on your negotiating position and reputation.  If the client believes you are happy to walk away if you don't get the rate you want, then they might be willing to increase the budget.

2.              Value each job on its own merit

A trap which many fall into when working for themselves is to agree a rate and then stick to it. Often many come to a day rate that they believe their skills or experience are worth, regardless of the job remit.  Individually quote for each project based on the time and effort involved. This is particularly relevant if it is another contract within the same company. Many will expect a similar rate, regardless of the work involved. If it involves different skills or is more labour extensive, explain why and quote more.

3.              Can you afford to say no to smaller roles?

When people first start out on their own, they often go for as much work as they possibly can, assuming quantity is better than quality.  However, this isn't always the case. In the beginning, people often say yes to every role within their niche to help with their short turn revenue.  However, consider the economy, would it be more beneficial working for clients with a larger, more flexible budget, that might help with long-term revenue.

4.              Keep on top of trends

Knowing about the latest technologies, trends, systems and processes are essential when you work for yourself. Keeping in the loop with these can help you negotiate greater rates but also offer something that those who work within an organisation may not have. The training and new knowledge you have ascertained from one contract to the next is a great asset and make sure when you are pitching for work companies know about any new technologies, latest trends or processes you have worked on.

 Likewise, look for jobs that might broaden your experience. Nothing beats on-the-job experience as a training ground.

And the good news is that you can write off some training costs when you pay for them yourself. The rule is that they must "wholly and exclusively" relate to the contracts that you're generating income from at the time, meaning that a three-year part-time MSc in Computer Science probably wouldn't qualify if you are working on an IT contract. However, there is a little leeway from HMRC for cross-training.

5.              Look at the market closely

Likewise, ensure you keep a close eye on the market, even when you are securely in a contract.  Knowing what the market value is of a job, whether there is a shortage of skills and experience in what you do will help you negotiate higher rates for specific jobs.

Often this is forgotten when you have been working for the same company or one in a similar industry for a while. However, market rates change over time and within regions so make sure you know the current day value of your role within the area you are looking to work.

Finally, be fair. To yourself and to your clients. Remember to justify your higher rate based on your skills, experience and knowledge, yet remember that if you charge too much, you can be undercut and your reputation questioned. And ultimately, your reputation is still one of the most important revenue-generating assets you have.

Apps For Good Awards finalists announced

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I'm always so impressed by the Apps For Good Awards entries, so I was pleased to see that the 18 finalist teams have been announced by the judges.

All of the teams have been invited to a final Dragon's Den style round of judging at the Barbican Centre, where the panel will select the winners on 23 June.

The winning teams then work with development agencies to launch their app on the market, with the support of Apps For Good and its sponsors.

Finalists are also up for the People's Choice Award (PCA), which is decided through an online vote.

Winners of the PCA also have their app developed and launched to market. Voting for the PCA takes place on the Apps For Good website 11-23 June.

The Finalist teams are:

Connected Communities - Sponsored by TalkTalk

Fife College: GuideBook

Priestley College: Sweg Messenger

Shireland Collegiate Academy: Crime Time

Information - Sponsored by Thomson Reuters

Stratford Girls' Grammar School: I'm Okay

Westfields Junior School: Epic Sleepover

Sutton Grammar School for Boys: Occasion Location

Learning - Sponsored by Samsung

Hymers College:Crypto Connex

Sutton Grammar School for Boys: MyStudio

The St Marylebone CE School: My Spelling Bee

My Planet - Sponsored by Thomson Reuters

Budehaven Community School: ShoreCast

Highgate Wood School: Water Works

Westfields Junior School: Wildlife Spotter


Wick High School: Chore Attack

Dr Challoner's Grammar School: Accumulus

Runshaw College: You Snooze, You Lose Maze

Saving, Spending, Giving - Sponsored by Barclaycard

The Abbey School: Swapsies

The Wroxham School: Pocket Money Pig

Thornleigh Salesian College: Delicious
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A coding conundrum - how will we bridge the skills gap?

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This is a guest blog by Peter Robbins, managing director at Mercato Solutions.

With so much attention on 'The Year of Code' there has been a huge spotlight placed on those responsible for delivering Computer Science in education, aiming to develop the skills necessary for individuals to embark on a career in code.  On the face of it, this seems like a no-brainer but are we going about it the right way? The existing skills shortage will continue to deepen unless big changes are made. Peter Robbins 2.jpg

Coding is an extremely-skilled and malleable occupation but it's key that we realise a long-term plan that galvanises multiple parties from education and the industry to make it happen and in a compressed time frame. 

There has been plenty of opinion voiced about the Government's 'Year of Code', with many arguing that this hasn't been approached in the right way and therefore it could be a long time before we see any real progress. Indeed, getting such young children to code 'just like that' is setting expectations at the wrong level and devaluing the profession of software development in the process.

The UK Council of Professors and Heads of Computing recently predicted a 15 per cent rise in the number of IT jobs by 2022, and yet there are fewer and fewer graduates seeking roles in the sector - a decrease of 50 percent in the last decade in fact. This rings alarm bells - the UK is in real danger of falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to providing talent that can lead the way in innovation, which could seriously damage the economy in the long-term.

It is clearly important that children are inspired and taught the required skills, but coding needs to be approached in the right way, and by the right people.

The teaching curriculum, for example, historically taught children how to use software rather than how to build it. The new IT syllabus announced by the Minister of Education earlier this year, however, is starting to go in the right direction and could inspire the generation of coders we need. 

'Computer Science' will now be taught from Year 1 onwards, and could have children programming in more than two languages by the time they reach high school. Great, but to continue these first steps, we need to reinstate some fundamentals like binary, Boolean Logic and problem solving in relevant school years.    As it stands we're going to have a gap as we wait for September's Year 1 intake to flourish and then we have to question how their early skills are going to be nurtured going forwards.

Separately, at its heart software development is an engineering task and therefore Computer Science needs to be taught by teachers with relevant skills.  A survey by MyKindaCrowd found 74 per cent of ICT teachers don't feel they have the skills to teach computer science and almost the same number question whether the government will provide support to begin teaching the new subject.

To inspire young people to embrace coding, it's crucial that teachers are provided with the necessary support to develop their own skills and to deliver engaging lessons, whether through government, the industry itself, or through a collaborative effort.  

It is also essential that what is being taught in schools is applicable outside the classroom in the real world. This ensures that young people become 'work ready' with the necessary tools to enter the profession. At the same time, it's important that we explore the subject in enough depth to provide youngsters with the opportunity to develop transferable and relevant skills that will open doors to a wide range of career paths. But it is down to the industry to share knowledge with educators and support this process for maximum return.

Coding is a vocation that requires a great deal of skill and expertise and one that is constantly evolving. By creating a long-term shared plan, we can continue to hold our own on the world stage when it comes to software development, innovation and growth.

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Codecademy opens first international office in London

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Codecademy is opening its first London office, as the firm's free coding skills service sees demand internationally.

The New York based company has also partnered with governments and education groups in the UK, Brazil, France, Estonia and Argentina.

In the UK Codecademy currently works with 1,000 schools and two million people including teachers, students, businesses and entrepreneurs. Despite being based in the US Codecademy realised more than 70% of its 24 miliion users were spread across 190 other countries.

With a recent platform redesign Codecademy is now available in local languages to encourage more users to learn to code for free.

CEO and co-founder of Codecademy Zach Sims, said: "We want Codecademy to be a gateway to better opportunities and a better life. In order to achieve this on a global scale, we have educated ourselves on the specific needs of learners in different places and understand that learning isn't the same across the world.

"By working with partners in each country, we're ensuring that we don't just have learners in each country, but a robust community of learners, teachers and support to provide specific skills needed to succeed in anyone's workplace."

The Institution of Engineering and Technology opens awards for nominations

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The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is on the hunt for individuals who are making advancements in science, engineering and technology for its annual IET Achievement Awards.

The organisation is calling for people to nominate colleagues who work in research and development or for their leadership of an enterprise.

Nominations need to demonstrate "exceptional engineering contribution in developing a product, service or process."

Entries can be from those starting their careers through to established professionals. Winners receive a medal presented at a ceremony in November and some winners also receive prizes up to £500.

Barry Brooks, IET President said: "As one of the world's largest professional bodies for engineers and technicians, we are looking forward to being inspired by engineers who are delivering the best in engineering excellence, recognising both developing talent and those at the pinnacle of their career.     

"To counter the risk of their great work going unnoticed, these awards put the spotlight on exceptional individuals who are contributing to the advancement of engineering."

Last year's winner of the IET's most prestigious prize, the Faraday Medal, was Michael Pepper, the Pender Professor of Nanoelectronics at University College London. On his win last year he said: "I was greatly honoured by this award with its distinguished history. I feel that it shines a light on talent in the field of nanotechnology and I hope it goes on to encourage young people to begin their careers in engineering."

There are four IET Medals and six IET Achievement Medals to be awarded in the following categories:

Faraday Medal

The most prestigious of the IET Achievement medals, awarded for notable scientific or industrial achievement globally, within engineering or for conspicuous service to the advancement of science, engineering and technology or for life-time achievement in science, engineering or technology.

Mountbatten Medal

Celebrating individuals who have made a significant contribution, to the promotion of either electronics or information technology and in the dissemination of the understanding of electronics and information technology to young people, or adults.

Mensforth Manufacturing Gold Medal

The Mensforth Manufacturing Gold Medal is awarded to candidates who have made major and distinguished contributions in the manufacturing sector, whether the advancement of manufacturing engineering technology or manufacturing management.

J J Thomson Medal for Electronics

The J J Thomson Medal is awarded to candidates who have made major and distinguished contributions in electronics.

IET Achievement Medals

Up to six IET Achievement Medals are awarded to individuals who have made major and distinguished contributions in the various sectors of engineering, technology or applied science. The judging panel will look for outstanding and sustained excellence in one or more activities, for example, research and development, innovation, design, manufacturing, technical management, promotion of engineering and technology.


IET Achievement Awards for Young Professionals

Sir Henry Royce Award

Awarded to an outstanding young engineering/IT professional who has excelled in the workplace within the last three years of their work in industry or for the profession.  

Mike Sargeant Award

Awarded to a young engineering or IT professional who is judged to have made the most significant progress in their career over more than three years.

Paul Fletcher Award

Awarded to an IET young professional volunteer for outstanding achievement in contributing to the activities of the IET.

The IET Achievement Awards are open for nominations until 30 May. More information about how to enter can be found here:

Nesta quiz reveals attitudes on innovation and technological change

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Nesta has published research into Britain's attitudes on innovation and technological change, categorising respondents of its quiz into five personas.


The Innovation Population quiz revealed the differences in attitudes between men and women and affluent and less affluent people.


One in five were categorised as "Futurists", who liked change, new gadgets and products for their own sake. This small group was identified as being more likely to be affluent.


A larger group was the "Realists" who said they see the value in new ways of doing things, however they are concerned with the change of pace. Concerns included the increased speed of consumerism and technology making people antisocial. The group strongly supported innovation where it promotes better health, wellbeing or quality of life.  


The quiz revealed that one in six people, mostly young women on lower incomes, felt innovation offered them little benefits but only new threats.


The research categorised the respondents into the following areas:


Innovation Futurists:  This group are engaged in the innovation debate and see the benefits of change in all aspects of life. They take a long-view on their own lives and the wider world and tend to view controversial innovations such as nuclear or GM foods more favourably than others. This group makes up 19% of the UK population, are typically male, and affluent.


Innovation Romantics: This group view new gadgets and technology as exciting and interesting but tend not to engage with innovation in the long term. They place great value and tend to approve of most innovation they come into contact with or hear about. However they aren't long-term planners and aren't concerned about the future. 12% of population, typically older and typically less affluent.


Innovation Creatives: Are typically younger than average, and display high levels of creativity and have a social perspective on life. They are curious and interested in new ideas especially those that demonstrate creativity and solve practical problems, but don't see innovation as a single concept. This group are the least cautious and often recommend new products to their peers. Make up 19% of the population and has broadly equal ratio male to female.


Innovation Realists: Appreciate innovation but aren't excited about it per se placing greater importance on ethics and rights than new ideas. They see the need to keep pace with change and see value of change in areas like health, transport and education. Their most pressing concerns are on the impact of technology on society: privacy, desocialisation and the perception that lifestyles are becoming increasingly disposable. Our biggest group at 34% of the population, more likely to be female, and typically affluent.


Innovation Sceptics: Are concerned about the pace of change in society. They are cautious and practical, placing low value on new ideas until they are confident they have a practical value.They often feel a sense of powerlessness and a feeling of being left behind, worrying about the impacts of change on job security and how society adapts to change overall. This group makes up 16% of the population, are typically female, young and less affluent.


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Why I changed career direction and retrained as a computing teacher

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This is a guest blog by BCS teacher training scholar Martin Smith who explains why he decided to change direction and retrain as a computing teacher following a successful 10 year career as a web-designer.

The launch of the BCS scholarships last year coincided with my decision to re-train as a computing teacher - so it worked out really well for me. Everything lined up at the right time.martin_smith_pic_for_bcs.jpg

The BCS scholarship has done exactly what it is designed to do. It helped me financially and got me through my teacher training course. As a career changer, I'm doing this later in life, so the scholarship has been brilliant as it has meant that I can concentrate on what I am doing, without turning my family's life upside-down.

I decided to switch to teaching as I felt it would be very rewarding and would really make a difference in terms of giving something back. I remember having a lot of help from one particular teacher when I was at school. Later in life, I realised what an effect this had on making me the person I am today.

I did a degree in Geology, and that's when I started doing a bit of HTML. I spent a lot of time coding my dissertation and enjoyed it. After graduating, I got a job as junior web developer and went on to work for a search engine optimisation company. In 2010, I won a Digital Entrepreneur Web Developer of the Year Award. I'd worked long and hard to reach that point in my career and it was around that time I realised that I wanted a change. I had been doing the same work for quite a while and wanted a fresh challenge. Although it would be a big change for me, I felt that I could bring plenty of industry experience to the job. I heard about the BCS scholarships, so I applied, went along for the interviews and did the tests. I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship.

Working in web development has given me a very logical way of thinking which will help when it comes to teaching computing. Thanks to my previous roles, I'm used to presenting ideas to lots of people, questioning them, persuading them, talking to them and getting them to think about things from different angles. So there is plenty of cross-over from this to my new role as a teacher.

I am doing my course though Colchester Teacher Training Consortium (CTTC) and have been very fortunate as I have already found a job (at Philip Morant School in Colchester) which I start full time in July.  It will give me time to find my feet ahead of the new intake in September when I will take on a form as well. I'm really looking forward to being in the classroom and teaching. The new computing curriculum has more of a focus on computer science and logic. It's going to be great in that I can use my knowledge to help shape and mould it.

We live in a time where everything depends on technology, yet children don't have much of an idea how things work. I want kids to realise that computers are not just consumables and I hope to get more of them interested in computing. When I was a kid we thought computers were new, cool and cutting edge, but today kids are born in to a digital world and take it all for granted.  We need to get people to think about technology differently and develop an interest in it from an early age.

The computer games industry is worth billions and kids play them, but may not realise that it is actually someone's job to create them. This industry could dry up if we don't do help to spark an interest and encourage people to go in it. That's true for all technology jobs. We need to nurture and develop talent.  We need to make kids realise that what they learn now will potentially help make an important contribution in the future.

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Avoiding office politics: By working at home

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This is a guest blog from Gareth Cartman, director of digital marketing at Clever Little Design. 

If you want to know how the workplace is changing, look no further than the startling results from a recent survey which showed that 62% of IT contractors claim the lack of "office politics" is behind their decision to work for themselves.

Add to that a recent survey which showed that 81% of UK workers want a change from the 9-5 'shift' and you start to view the sea change in the British workplace, or at least in attitudes of British employees. 

So is office politics really turning people off in their droves? And if so, there are two problems we have to solve:Thumbnail image for gareth cartman image.jpg

1)      Workplaces need less conflict & better communication (conflict & poor communication are often behind much of what we would call 'office politics')

2)      We need to embrace remote working & make it work for us, not against us - it's an inevitability 

Reducing conflict, improving communication

IT workers don't like office politics - and you can pretty much guarantee that many other departments dislike it, too. Office politics proliferates when there's a lack of communication, and silo mentalities that result in conflict. 

Tackling silos is the first step in any organisation. Silos happen when leaders don't talk to each other. They fester, and resentment festers - information doesn't cross between silos, and a blame culture arises. No wonder IT workers (stereotypically not the most outgoing of people) don't want to get involved.

We thought that the open plan offices of the 90s would have ended silos, but instead they've continued to build. It's top-down, and cuts across the business. To end silos, you should:

-          get leaders talking & agreeing on one common objective

-          get everyone to see the big picture

-          define common goals, and reward common achievements

-          encourage cross-department collaboration

What makes this easier is the explosion in business social networking tools. For years, organisations have banned social media in the workplace, but are seemingly now willing to accept facebook-style collaboration tools. It seems that one of the keys to ending workplace silos is to mimick social networks - research seems to indicate that productivity is up as a result. IT workers especially seem to benefit. 

Making remote working work for employers

For too long, the discussion about remote work has centred around it "working for the employee". The idea of work/life balance, less commuting, freedom to work more flexible hours has caught on, and employers have had to adapt as a result.

Let's turn it on its head. How can you actually get a better quality of work out of employees? IT workers would rather stay out of the office - and that's fine. Let's accept that as the norm - how can we use this situation as employers to improve quality?

Firstly - systems. We mentioned business social networking tools, but ERP, CRM, Marketing tools, sales dashboards... they all need to work around employees, not the other way round.

The CRM industry, for instance (often the chattiest of the lot) has been talking about mobile for years - it's only now that businesses have finally accepted mobile as an essential 'strategy'. Why? Because people aren't using their tools. Not only are people forming silos in the workplace, the tools are becoming silos of their own.

One major global business (who shall remain unnamed) had multiple CRM systems, and multiple installations of the same system - because nobody talked to anyone else. Systems - at least integrated ones - are able to bring people together, so long as they meet peoples' needs. Why do you think dictators are so keen to bring down Twitter?

The current "BIG" need is the ability to collaborate with colleagues wherever you go. In the coffee shop, on the train, wherever. So if we're going to make remote working 'work' for businesses, the focus has to be on a) making it easy to use these tools, and b) driving user adoption. A should beget B.

The results are obvious to HR professionals, and they should be obvious to anyone with half a brain. More productive employees are generally happier ones. They're achieving something. What's more, you're giving them the flexibility they demanded, so you're going to get some loyalty, and potentially even a competitive advantage in the much-fabled 'war for talent' which - after a brief hiatus - is apparently back 'on' (we could argue that in IT, it has never been 'off'). 

We can't predict the future shape of the workplace with any seriousness, but we can see its direction. Workplace technology is taking on consumer technology, and the result is that employees are expecting this technology not just to support their work/life balance but to actually make their workplace a more collaborative, more enjoyable place to work.

The systems we run have to meet that demand. They have to meet users' requirements for flexibility, and they have to be used. If employers can concentrate on building tools around employees, then not only do we start to solve the common problem of "how much money have we wasted on this software nobody uses" - but we also start to break down the silos that cause so much friction within the workplace, and that drive out some of the most talented IT professionals into contracting roles.

I'd call that a no-brainer.

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Park Street Hacker Elite coding club receive £1k donation from Bango after kids write letter for support

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Mobile payments firm Bango has given the 'Park Street Hacker Elite' coding club £1,000 for equipment, after the children aged seven to nine wrote to the company asking for support.


The coding club takes place at Park Street Primary School in Cambridge, and the children used the money to buy screens, cables and other accessories for the five Raspberry Pis which the school won in the 'Hour of Code' competition before Christmas.

Bango specialises in mobile payment for app stores including the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon and BlackBerry.

Richard Leyland, vice president of marketing communications at Bango said: "Coding is a new literacy. Like reading and writing, it will be a fundamental skill for the next generation at work.

"Teaching young children to code fluently is vital for the UK's connected economy. We're really happy to support the next generation of programmers!"

Currently the children are learning to code on a programme called Scratch, but the club hopes the new equipment, and with support from Bango's developer Simone Masiero, that the children will be learning other coding languages by the end of the year.

The club hope this will progress onto robotics and other creative Raspberry Pi projects.

Teacher Mark Calleja, who set up and runs the club said: "We are really grateful to Bango for their support. It is helping Park Street get totally ready for the change in curriculum in September, which will mean everyone has to learn to code at primary school."

The club, that takes place every Tuesday after school, was oversubscribed. The organisers ended up having to choose 20 members by ballot.

 "We were only supposed to have 12 kids" said Calleja.

"But as Bango have also supplied us with a skilled developer to help run the club, we could stretch to 20, which is great!"

The children in the coding club are set to appear on the BBC's Naked Scientists programme this coming Sunday at 6pm on 96 and 95.7 FM.

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Going against the crowd

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This is a guest blog by Joe Chadwick, 20 - Advanced Apprentice at Fujitsu UK & Ireland -  Business Administration

I finished A-levels a year and a half ago and started a business operations apprenticeship with Fujitsu last July. I haven't looked back since. I would, hand on heart, recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who is thinking of boosting their career, while still being able to learn at the same time. I am really happy in my current role and I'm looking forward to developing my career at Fujitsu further.

Joe Chadwick.jpg

The funny thing is, I almost ended up going to university. My college encouraged everyone to follow the traditional university route, regardless of their ambitions. It nearly forced UCAS upon us and as a result every single one of my classmates ended up doing a degree. I was the only one who stood against the norm and went on to do an apprenticeship.

I knew from the start that university wasn't for me - I wanted to progress my career straight away and get the advantage of learning on the job and earning at the same time. At university you get to work with a very limited group of people - of similar backgrounds, age and experiences.

All the work you do is very individual, and while deadlines are still there and push you to work hard, it is not the same as when you are an apprentice. When you do an apprenticeship, you learn skills that are transferable and get to cooperate with a variety of people with different roles, backgrounds, ages and experience, which is extremely valuable to employers today.

Recently, I have been offered to work in a brand new cloud support team within Fujitsu - and I'm really excited about this new opportunity. I know very well it can be difficult to follow through on your ambitions and go against what everyone else expects, but if you are thinking about doing an apprenticeship, as opposed to going to university, you shouldn't be afraid of doing it.

Being yourself will pay off if you take the opportunities presented to you and work hard. I know I'm on the right route to a successful career and that I made the right choice for me. Don't be afraid to make yours. 

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