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Over 80% of UK Students Have Never Considered an Infosec Career

Just 16% of UK students have ever considered a career in cybersecurity, among the lowest in EMEA, according to a new study from the SANS Institute.

The training organization polled 4000 14-18-year-old students across the region, including 1000 in the UK, to compile its latest report, SANS EMEA Survey: the iGen and Cyber Security.

The UK came fourth in terms of the number of students expressing an interest in info security, behind Saudi Arabia (50%), the UAE (46%) and Germany (27%), and polling lower than the EMEA average of 24%.

Awareness was also poor: just 9% of British students claimed to be “very aware” of roles in the industry, below a low EMEA average of 11%.

This is a concern for the region, given that governments are desperate to encourage more children into the sector to reduce current skills shortfalls. There’s said to be a gap of just under three million global IT security professionals today, including 142,000 in EMEA.

“With pressure on organisations to find skilled cybersecurity professionals and the uncertainty of Brexit exacerbating the issue, it’s now more important than ever for the UK to develop home-grown cyber talent, rather than relying on other nations to provide that expertise,” argued SANS head of research and development, James Lyne.

However, there was some good news from the study: a third 32% of EMEA students claimed to be considering IT as one of their top five career choices, above medicine (21%), teaching (19%) and finance (16%). Within IT, cybersecurity is a third priority (49%) behind system design (52%) and app development (61%).

What’s more, 81% of said they would be interested in learning more about cybersecurity as part of their school day, as an extra-curricular activity, or both. In the UK, the figure dropped to 75%, behind Saudi Arabia (93%), UAE (91%), and Germany (90%).

“Programs such as Cyber Discovery, being delivered by SANS for the UK government as part of its Cyber First initiative, are beginning to help address this lack of engagement,” argued Lyne. “SANS encourages the development and roll-out of such programs, so that Britain can effectively arm the workforce of tomorrow with the tools they need now to help make the country more competitive and secure.”

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