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Cyber Discovery Program Aims to Encourage More Teens into Industry

The UK government has launched its latest bid to address chronic information security skill shortages with a new training program aimed at young people in school years 10-13.

Delivered by SANS Institute, BT, Cyber Security Challenge UK and FutureLearn, Cyber Discovery is a free extra-curricular program designed to find the stars of the future aged roughly 14-18 years old.

If they pass the initial online assessment — open until early January — participants will be taught via gamified learning activities created by industry experts.

Those who show aptitude will be able to access further teaching from experts and attend a three-day regional camp.

The curriculum itself covers digital forensics, cryptography, defending against web attacks, programming and ethics — with the emphasis throughout on providing a clear route into the industry.

The course includes online and face-to-face teaching alongside real-world technical challenges for students to pit their wits against.

Also on offer are extra-curricular clubs guided by an adult in which students can chat, collaborate and share ideas.

Culture secretary, Karen Bradley, explained the initiative is part of the government’s £1.9bn investment in cybersecurity.

“This government is committed to improving the skills of the next generation and encouraging the best young minds into cybersecurity,” she added in a statement. “Cyber Discovery will help inspire the digital talent of tomorrow and give thousands of young people the opportunity to develop cutting-edge cybersecurity skills and fast-track future careers.”

Debbie Tunstall, head of education at Cyber Security Challenge UK, argued that the industry is still in its infancy, meaning that few youngsters are aware of the major opportunities for employment that currently exist.

“With a critical skills gap looming and the cybercrime threat growing, we need to educate about cybersecurity while individuals are still young; piquing their interest in future cyber-careers and as a result, filling the pipeline of talent,” she added.

“The Challenge has years of experience in dealing with people in this age group and providing fun and educational face-to-face events and we’re delighted to bring our expertise to this innovative program.”

Like much of the rest of the world, the UK is facing a cybersecurity skills “cliff edge” as older practitioners retire without enough replacements entering the industry, according to the Center for Cyber Safety and Education.

Its latest Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISWS) revealed that 66% of UK organizations don’t have enough cybersecurity staff, with nearly half (47%) claiming the reason is a dearth of qualified applicants.

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