Thanks to help from the UK government and CompTIA, 99 percent of the students in Firebrand’s apprentice program are offered permanent jobs after one year.
Companies love to promise quick results, but for Firebrand Training — a UK-based global learning center — accelerated learning is more like its calling card. “Firebrand has provided its exclusive accelerated learning since 2001,” said James Lapwood, Firebrand’s communications manager. “This means that courses are delivered at twice the speed of traditional training.”
Instead of distance learning or trekking back and forth to a campus, students stay at one of Firebrand’s training centers, which include sleeping accommodations and meals. Students stay on campus for the duration of the training, giving them a full immersion into the coursework. Some classes are just two days while others — like Firebrand’s most popular course, which combines CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ — provide both the learning and the certification exams in a seven-day stay.
“It’s 12-hour days of very intensive training, and every course ends with an exam,” said Lapwood. “It’s very different from the traditional classroom.”
Headquartered in the UK, Firebrand Training has training centers across Europe and the Middle East, and the people who seek out training are a mix of employed and unemployed; young and old. “Firebrand’s students are a cross-section across the IT and project management industries,” Lapwood said. “Regardless of age or role, Firebrand’s students are all driven to get certified quickly. This means they don’t waste time, and won’t be away from work for longer than is necessary.”
Most students find success in the rapid pace, but if not, Firebrand offers a certification guarantee: If you don’t pass the first exam, you can return to train with Firebrand for free for the next year until you do. “Students are reassured by the certification guarantee – meaning if they were to fail, they can train again for free,” Lapwood said.
Lecture, Lab, Review
Firebrand works hard to keep its students engaged and learning during the 12-hour classroom days, and uses a signature lecture, lab and review process to deliver what Firebrand calls “the maximum amount of knowledge in the minimum amount of time.”
The lecture, appealing to both auditory and visual learners, includes demonstrations and real-world experience to keep the lessons relevant. During the lab, students practice what they’ve learned, a form of kinesthetic learning. Labs are open and accessible 24 hours a day — another benefit of the training center experience. In the review, students ask questions and seek guidance from the instructor before sitting for the exam.
Outside of CompTIA, Firebrand offers courses from dozens of groups, like Microsoft and PMI, and every class ends with a certification exam. “We have a 1-to-1 or 2-to-1 test-to-train ratio,” Lapwood said. “This means every one of our CompTIA courses conclude with one or two certifications.”
Ninety-Nine Percent Get Hired
Unemployment in the UK — especially for young people — remains high, and while the economy shows signs of coming back, students aged 16 to 24 still struggle to find jobs and even points of entry. Responding to the problem, the UK government launched a nationwide apprenticeship program designed to help businesses across all sectors discover new talent.
An alternative to expensive university education, apprenticeships give students on-the-job experience plus training and certifications. Students also receive at least the apprentice minimum wage for their work. “Ultimately what it means is that students from 16 to 24 have the opportunity to complete a year’s worth of training on the job,” said Lapwood. “They’re getting experience in the real world and gaining training and certifications at the same time.”
In 2012, Firebrand got on board and began offering the Firebrand IT Apprenticeship, which starts with CompTIA Strata certification. That’s followed by Microsoft Windows 7 and then networks, security and servers. It’s an intense course load for the apprentices — many who come in pretty new to technology. “When they come in, they hardly know the difference between a stick of RAM and a hard disk,” said Firebrand IT instructor Gary Fildes. “It’s the equivalent of IT zero to IT hero at the end.”
The government-funded apprentice program includes a year’s worth of training and certification plus a one-year contract in an IT role. For Firebrand, that’s led to some impressive results: 99 percent of Firebrand apprentices are offered a permanent job by their employer at the end of the first year, according to Lapwood.
Many apprenticeships require students to be on the job four days a week and spend the fifth in training, but Firebrand — proud to be an outlier — does things a little differently. Students spend a full week on campus to train and 10 weeks back home, working and studying for the next go-round.
“The kids work hard because they know what certification will mean in the future,” Fildes said. “People I’ve previously taught now work as far away as Dell in Australia and realize that an A+ or Security+ or Network+ equals a sustainable career in the industry.”
Certifying the World
Many training courses have a pretty wide gap between instruction and exam, but Firebrand, named Training Company of the Year multiple times, operates the largest exam center in the country. Having students sit for the exam is designed to save people time, money and effort. Firebrand offers a CompTIA A+ course and exam in a four-day boot camp, for example, and CompTIA Security+ in three. “We certify hundreds of CompTIA students every year and have delivered thousands to date,” Lapwood said.
Fireband offers plenty of CompTIA-related courses, including CASP, Cloud Essentials, CTP+, Linux+, Network+, Project+, RFID+, Security+, Server+ and CompTIA Strata.
“For both our commercial and apprenticeship customers, CompTIA training and certification provide the full spectrum of IT understanding to perform their role,” Lapwood said. “It’s the vendor-neutrality that helps this.”
Michelle Peterson is CompTIA’s communications specialist.