How the government intends to close the cyber security skills gap

By Sooraj Shah
04 Sep 2013 View Comments
Education secretary Michael Gove

Computing: How important is cyber security within the plans to revamp the ICT curriculum?

Further reading

David Willetts: The Department for Education recently published a revised national curriculum framework and programme of study for computing, including references to the safe use of technology and to protecting online privacy and identity at key stages 3 and 4.

Through the National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP), the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is also supporting targeted cyber security learning.

Do you believe that current initiatives to get more people into the cyber security profession - like the Cyber Security Challenge - are working? (This year's winner decided not to take up a role in cyber security).

Willetts: The Cyber Security Challenge is a success. Since its launch in 2010, over 10,000 people have registered. It is sponsored by more than 50 organisations including the Cabinet Office and GCHQ, industry, professional bodies, universities and public-sector organisations.

Within the past three years, over £200,000 of career-enabling prizes have been awarded to participants of the Challenge. In addition, it provides a wealth of careers resources and information for the aspiring cyber professional.

The issue does not seem to be that there is a dearth of talent, but rather that there is no clear pathway into the cyber security profession from education - how do you intend to put this right?

Michael Gove: We need to keep young people's options open as much as possible. The new computing curriculum for key stages 1 to 3 - to age 14 - will give all pupils a firm grounding in the fundamentals of computer science, as well as skills in programming and the application of digital tools to address practical problems.

I hope that many pupils will choose to study computer science beyond this. New GCSEs are now in place, which are a sound basis for progression into more specialist routes within the computing field, such as cyber security.

Willetts: Work is under way to both strengthen and raise awareness of the variety of potential entry routes to the cyber security profession. This is vital if we are to harness the interest shown by new young talent, and provide effective stepping-stones for those already in the workforce but keen to enter this field.

The Cyber Security Learning Pathways project led by the IT National Skills Academy is testing a self-assessment tool to help people considering cyber security work identify particular gaps in their capabilities and experience.

In addition, there are several initiatives backed by the NCSP that are helping to highlight cyber security as an attractive career option, including the Cyber Security Challenge, the development of a cyber security profile within the Graduate Prospects careers website, and a pilot employer-sponsored MSc bursary scheme.

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