UK Initiative To Increase Pool Of Cyber Security Professionals
Written by Sue Gee   
Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The UK government has announced £20 million in funding for the Cyber Schools programme, a scheme to deliver cyber security training to school pupils aged between 14 and 18. The target is for 5,700 teenagers to be trained by 2021 and girls are being given extra encouragement to get involved.



The initiative comes from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which as part of its remit has responsibility for the building of a digital economy and for the Internet.

In the DCMS Press Release, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock is quoted as saying:

"This forward-thinking programme will see thousands of the best and brightest young minds given the opportunity to learn cutting-edge cyber security skills alongside their secondary school studies. We are determined to prepare Britain for the challenges it faces now and in the future and these extracurricular clubs will help identify and inspire future talent."

The Cyber Schools scheme comes as a response to a likely shortfall in appropriately trained specialists to defend UK businesses against online threats. The announcement opens:

Thousands of teenagers are to be given intensive cyber security training and mentoring in extracurricular clubs as part of plans to address the risk of a future skills shortage, as the need for cyber security experts is set to skyrocket.

To put the target of 5.700 participant in context it states:

Cyber security is an exciting industry with strong job prospects. Recent figures from the Tech Partnership show there are already 58,000 cyber security specialists in a growing sector worth £22bn a year to the economy. This is part of the Government’s commitment to prepare Britain for the challenges it faces now and in the future.

Details of how the scheme will operate are a bit sketchy:

Students will be expected to commit to four hours a week. This will include classroom-based and online-teaching with flexibility around exams and busier study periods.

The aim is for students to start aged 14 and complete a four-year programme. It will be delivered in modules, meaning older students can join at any point providing they meet the right criteria.  

The reason for the lack of more concrete information is that the government is still looking for a service providers or consortium of service provides to develop and deliver this training program with a deadline of March 13th for bids to be made.

The tender site gives some additional insights into what is expected including:  

This exciting programme should be designed to enthuse and inspire students. It should also promote diversity, neurodiversity and social mobility, by being equally attractive and accessible to all. To achieve this, the programme should aim for a 50:50 male to female ratio, be inclusive of those with disabilities and be delivered across a geographic and socio-economic spread. The Provider should also consider will be expected to proactively seek individuals with latent cyber security talent, including those who may not necessarily be excelling academically, but have the aptitude to succeed at cyber. 

Although currently called the Cyber Schools programme the tender description states that it will be delivered under the CyberFirst brand.



So far this has launched the CyberFirst Girls Competition, for teams of young women aged 13 to 15. Under the auspices of GCHQ this contest has two parts the first being a set of online challenges covering four main cyber security topics which must be completed between February 27th and March 6th 2017. .

The contest website, where schools can pre-register states:

We want to offer girls a fun yet challenging gameplay experience. The puzzles can become progressively harder allowing girls to stretch their learning and gain further knowledge that could help them in their everyday lives. 

For the second part of the contest the top 10 teams from the online round will then be invited to an all-expenses-paid Grand Final in London. Teams will compete against each other to investigate some suspicious cyber activity, present their findings and solve who’s behind the crime.

There is also the CyberFirst bursary funding scheme, which offers grants of up to £4,000 for up to 1,000 students by 2020 to study a relevant degree, do a placement or attend a summer school and, depending on meeting requirements, the chance to work in national security on graduation.

DCMS is also supporting the Cyber Security Apprenticeships for Critical Sectors Scheme, now open for applications, in which leading employers in the UK's energy and transport infrastructure look to recruit up to 50 highly skilled apprentices aged 16 and over to help defend essential services against cyber attacks. 

Whether the Cyber Schools programme and other CyberFirst initiatives have anything to do with the UK College for Cyber Security we reported on last November is unclear. The link is that they all want to address the critical skills gap in the cyber security industry.


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 February 2017 )