Are School Children The Answer To Cyber Defence Skills Shortage?

The UK government has announced a programme to provide lessons in cyber security to schoolchildren in a bid to shore up cyber defences in the future. It is expected that 5,700 pupils aged 14 in England will sign up for this 5 year pilot.cyber security

The programme joins other schemes designed to up skill the cyber security experts of the future; including an apprenticeship scheme for young people aged 16 or over who have a “natural flair for problem-solving” and are “passionate about technology”, and university funding and placements for promising undergraduates.

Selected school pupils will spend up to 4 hours a week from September, and the programme includes a combination of classroom and online teaching, and work experience: tackling “real-world challenges.”

Digital and Culture Minister Matt Hancock said: “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 extra-curricular clubs will help identify and inspire future talent.”

Cyber Security Threats and Skills Shortage

The most significant consequence of technology innovation and digital transformation has been the rise of the cyber criminal, cyber terrorism and cyber espionage.

Cyber threats have become increasingly sophisticated and intelligent, threatening businesses, organisations and governments. As a result there is a high demand for cyber security experts with the right skills. The Public Accounts Committee has warned that recruiting people with the right skills set is becoming increasingly difficult, and this fast growing industry is struggling to meet demand.

The Public Accounts Committee said in a statement: ”We are determined to prepare Britain for the challenges it faces now and in the future and these extra-curricular clubs will help identify and inspire future talent.

Currently there are 58,000 cyber security experts employed in the UK. However it is expected that by 2020 there will be a global shortfall of 1.5 million cyber security professionals.

The shortage is both a supply and demand issue with awareness of cyber security threats creating increased demand; and a skills issue as the threat landscape changes at an astonishing rate and scope of cyber security roles adjusts accordingly.

Brian Lord, cyber security expert and a former deputy director at GCHQ, said of the new secondary school programme: “There is perception that cyber security is all about techno geeks who have long hair, glasses, wear heavy metal t-shirts and drink Red Bull.

“There are those, and they do an extraordinarily good job. But there is a whole range of other activities… that can appeal to a wide cross section of children, graduates and apprentices, and at the moment they don’t know what [is on] offer.

“The more exposure [children] can get [the more it will] prepare them for a future career and, as that generation needs to understand how to be safe online, you get a double benefit.”

Cyber security has been identified as one of the top 4 risks to national security – criminals or foreign powers might hack into critical UK computer systems – with Russia in particular suspected of planning cyber attacks on Western targets.

With threats only escalating it would seem that 14 year olds today will have a job for life if they decide to purchase cyber security as a career.