The CEO of the Cyber Security Challenge, Stephanie Daman, has hit back at claims that the series of national events designed to encourage talented professionals to join the UK IT security sector has failed to attract suitable candidates.
KPMG's UK head of cyber security, Martin Jordan, said that the ‘Big Four' professional services firm had to scale down its sponsorship of the challenge because of a lack of credible talent for the firm to recruit.
"We've drawn down our involvement this year, sadly we didn't see the CVs coming through and the sponsorship is quite expensive - we are a business," he said.
Stephen Bonner, a partner in the information protection side of KPMG, said that the challenge did not appropriately reflect what a role in cyber security entails, but said that it had worked in growing awareness of cyber security as a profession. He also sympathised with the event organisers, suggesting that it is not the role of CSC to be a recruitment agency.
CSC CEO Daman said: "Stephen is right to state that we are not a recruitment agency and therefore our success cannot be measured by the number of CVs that just one of our 70 or more sponsors has received."
In March last year, a CSC spokesperson said that 40 people had secured IT security jobs following two full years of the challenge, with 7,000 people having registered for the competition in total.
But Daman claimed that sponsors should not measure the success of the challenge by the amount of talent they recruit, but by the awareness of cyber security that has spread as a result of the events.
"The fact is many of our backers have welcomed new recruits as a results of their participation in the challenge, but this is really a by-product of our core objective, which is raising awareness of cyber security career opportunities among people who have the right potential," she said.
"Examples of direct employment as a result of challenge participation are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impact we are having. Many more candidates are enrolling in their first cyber security training programmes and university courses, gaining entry to industry events and meeting with key employers in order to improve their knowledge of, and suitability for, job opportunities in the coming years," she added.
KPMG's Bonner said that a shift in the educational system would be a better way to raise awareness of cyber security, and Daman said that she agreed with Bonner about the importance of tackling the cyber skills gap in the classroom, and this has led to the challenge launching a pilot schools initiative.
"This has already seen classes of students in over 550 secondary schools up and down the country learning about the industry and beginning to developing code-breaking and cryptography skills. Its success has meant the Cabinet Office has backed the programme for another year, incorporating it officially as part of the UK Cyber Security Strategy," she said.
Computing and QA Training's Securing Talent campaign aims to raise awareness of the growing need for people with cyber security skills in industry and government, and for clearer pathways into the cyber security profession.