The UK Government offers thousands of teenagers the chance to join a virtual cybersecurity school. The aim is threefold: give students a variety of extracurricular activities they can do from home, develop their problem-solving and cyber skills, and close the future skills gap in the cybersecurity industry.
Free Cyber School
At a time when schools remain closed to most children, virtual cybersecurity school aims to give students aged between 13 and 18 a variety of extracurricular activities to do from the safety of their homes. Teens can learn how to crack code, fix security flaws, and dissect criminals’ digital trails, while progressing through a game as a cyber agent.
The school also provides free weekly webinars run by industry experts teaching fundamental security disciplines such as digital forensics, cryptography, and operating systems. This will help teenagers to develop important skills needed for future jobs, particularly in cybersecurity.
The move comes as the government announces a number of other online training courses. This includes the launch of the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) hugely popular CyberFirst summer courses. This year, these courses are also moving online, to help more than a thousand teenagers develop important cyber skills from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Skills Gap in the Cybersecurity Industry
According to (ISC)², the world’s largest not-for-profit membership association of certified cybersecurity professionals, the skills gap in the cybersecurity industry around the world and in the UK is increasing.
In the UK an estimated 289,000 people work in the cybersecurity sector, alongside 804,700 in the US, 84,000 in Canada, 107,000 in Australia, and 43,000 in Singapore. The total current cybersecurity workforce amounts to an estimated 2.8 million professionals, while the additional number of trained people needed to close the skills gap is 4.07 million professionals.
This means that the cybersecurity workforce needs to grow by 145% globally to close the gap and better defend organizations worldwide. “While the global cybersecurity workforce gap is daunting, it is not insurmountable”, said Wesley Simpson, chief operating officer, (ISC)². “It is a number organizations can get their arms around. By recruiting talented men and women into the field, attracting outside experts, and helping to train and develop existing team members.”
The Next Generation of Cyber Defenders
“We have a world-leading cyber sector which plays a crucial role protecting the country and our digital economy, so it is absolutely vital we continue to inspire the next generation of tech talent to help maintain the UK’s strong position”, the UK’s Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said. “This new initiative will give teenagers something fun and educational to do from home and provide them with a glimpse into the life of a cybersecurity professional.”
The National Crime Agency and Cyber Security Challenge UK will this week also announce that teenagers can access their online cyber skills platform CyberLand for free during the coming months. This series of games is designed to teach teenagers the fundamentals of cybersecurity. Players protect the virtual city ‘CyberLand’ from cyberattacks while learning key skills.
Deputy Director at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit Jim Stokley explained: “Many young people have a keen interest in technology and have developed impressive cyber skills. The virtual cyber school and CyberFirst programs are great initiatives which will support this next generation of cyber defenders in realizing their potential.”