Free SQL Server training – great for the public sector

Public sector budgets have been slashed aggressively, and we hear regularly about the jobs lost but we don’t hear about the staff who have to do more with less. It’s become increasingly difficult to keep these folks trained and on top of their game.

We need the techies who build and maintain our public infrastructure to be good at what they do, and have the enthusiasm to do it. Doing that with little or no training budget can be really tough. Without the training staff morale drops and the quality of the service degrades. People can leave and because there’s no budgets to extend the salaries, it can be even harder to retain or recruit for a replacement. It becomes a vicious cycle as staff end up with more work and lower capability to do it.

A good way to combat this problem, is to look outside of “standard training”. User groups, free conferences, and fostering in-house training are fantastic ways of getting access to training for free. From a SQL Server and Business Intelligence perspective, there is a vast amount of free training available:

The NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) support NHS Wales, and are responsible for the development of new software and decision systems. As you can imagine this is a super important organisation and lives literally depend on the work they do. Keeping staff trained is vital, and over the past few years they’ve emerged as some of the biggest supporters of the local Cardiff SQL Server community, such that they now host the weekly lunch time learning sessions and rank top on the Awesome Employers list. They’re sending 15 people to SQL Relay Cardiff on October 4th.

Geoff Norton, Software Development Manager at NWIS

Geoff Norton, Software Development Manager at NWIS

Geoff Norton, the Software Development Manager at NWIS, had this to say about free SQL training:

A number of our staff now regularly attend SQL Cardiff and particularly SQL Lunch. We also send a number of employees from different departments to the annual SQL Relay event.

Staff see these events as a great way to discuss and share ideas. They also offer people the opportunity to ask questions, suggest topics and improve their skills by learning from other’s experience and expertise.

It’s great to see people attend these meetings and to hear how they have benefited as a result. At a recent SQL Lunch one of our a developers talked about how he had improved the performance of his SQL queries to speed up the delivery of reports – a direct consequence of learning more about how and when to use table variables and temporary tables. Not only did this help the dev teams improve the quality of software it will directly benefit the users who rely on those reports!

It’s important to every employer that they equip their employees with the skills to do the job. However we also recognise the importance in providing learning opportunities to staff and to afford them the opportunity to investigate and introduce new ideas. Encouraging staff to engage in local forums such as SQL Cardiff, SQL Lunch and various other tech meetups is one way of doing so. Certainly I’ve seen an increase staff morale as a result – particularly when they have the encouragement of managers to do so.

There is an acute shortage of highly technical IT professionals including Software Developers. Put simply employers can’t afford to ignore the need to support staff in developing the skills . Encouraging staff to get involved in attending and participating in local development forums is a quick, easy and cost-effective way of doing so!

Richard Griffiths presenting on MDS

Richard Griffiths presenting on MDS


Richard Griffiths is a BI Developer for NWIS. He started coming along to the user group and now hosts the SQL Lunches and is presenting at SQL Relay Cardiff. Richard had this to say:

Discovering the Cardiff SQL user group through the SQL Relay has been a massive influence on me over the last 12 months, giving me both access to a wealth of knowledge from other peoples experiences in different sectors and also being a driving force to know more about what they know! During this time I have achieved two Microsoft Professional Certifications in SQL querying and data warehousing due to the enthusiasm everyone has in wanting to be the best darn’ SQL professionals they can be. I am also now a regular, if fairly novice, speaker within the group and my confidence has grown so much thanks to all the freely available resource that the free SQL events have given me.