NCSC Opens Registration for 2021 CyberFirst Girls Competition

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The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has announced its annual CyberFirst Girls Competition is now open for registrations, with a mission to inspire the next generation of young women to pursue a career in the industry.

Although set-up as an off-shoot of GCHQ to advise and protect UK organizations from cyber-threats, one of the NCSC’s other core goals is to help address chronic cybersecurity skills shortages in the UK.

According to government figures published in March, 48% of businesses have a basic cyber-skills gap. This is defined as those in charge of cybersecurity lacking "the confidence to carry out the kinds of basic tasks laid out in the government-endorsed Cyber Essentials scheme, and are not getting support from external cybersecurity providers.”

What’s more, 25% of firms said that such gaps prevent them from achieving their business goals. The industry is also woefully lacking in diversity: just 15% of the cyber-workforce is female versus 28% in the wider digital sector, the report claimed.

The CyberFirst Girls Competition offers female students in Year 8 in England and Wales, Year 9 in Northern Ireland and S2 in Scotland the opportunity to test their skills in a “fun but challenging” environment.

Teams of four students participate in an online qualifier lasting 10 days, before a regional semi-final round and then the grand final on April 26 2021.

The opening of registrations comes hot on the heels of another initiative from the NCSC: EmPower Cyber Week. Running last week, the event saw scores of schools from around the country participate in virtual presentations designed to show pupils aged 12-13 what careers in cybersecurity look like.

Topics including coding, cryptography and logic were delivered in a highly accessible manner. For example, a “Popstars and Passwords” track taught students to create strong passwords using three random words and their favourite pop stars. A “Python Mind Reader” course used the eponymous programming language to create a simple game.

“The NCSC is committed to creating an environment where cybersecurity can thrive, and we’re pleased that our drives to reach school-aged children are inspiring the next generation of cyber-experts,” said NCSC deputy director for cyber-growth, Chris Ensor.

“The CyberFirst program looks to offer pupils and students as many chances as possible to develop valuable cyber-skills – and we would strongly encourage girls to register for next year’s CyberFirst Girls competition.”

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