It’s Time to Captivate the Next Generation of Cybersecurity Professionals

One unforeseen side effect of the pandemic is that it has provided cyber-criminals with a goldmine of opportunities to take advantage of people. From businesses pivoting online to millions of people having no choice but to work on the web at home, life has been for the last year – increasingly digital.

The rise in online activities has provided cyber-criminals with the chance to exploit people throughout this difficult time with the number of phishing attempts and cyber-attacks increasing exponentially. To deal with this and ensure we have the technology to prevent such attacks, we need cybersecurity professionals who can provide businesses and individuals with the solutions required to keep us safe online.

At the moment, the demand for cyber professionals hugely outweighs the supply. According to a 2020 report from the Government on cyber skills, two-thirds of cyber firms have faced problems with technical cybersecurity skills gaps, either among existing staff or among job applicants, with a quarter saying that such skills gaps have prevented them from achieving business goals. 

We need to rectify this. We must inspire and educate the next generation of cyber leaders and highlight the benefits of embarking on a cybersecurity course. There needs to be a concerted effort to spotlight the plethora of potential career options that will be available to them - from security architects to information security analysts to data scientists.

To do this effectively, we need courses that are focused on teaching young people the skills they need for a career in the sector, and this is what we are doing, with our undergraduate cybersecurity degree. We are giving students a theoretical foundation in computer science, as well as practical and expert-level knowledge in a specialist area of the field which can range from network security to ethical hacking.

Currently, it is assumed that people need a background in STEM subjects to undertake a cybersecurity degree, but this is simply not the case – and even if you studied history or English at A-Level you could still have a potential career in cyber.

As we press the restart button following COVID-19, we are also presented with the opportunity to ensure the sector is as diverse and inclusive as possible. Encouraging a wider range of students to study cyber at university level will be key to achieving this.

To encourage diversity, we are working hard to encourage more women to onto our courses – to ensure a fairer gender balance in the sector moving forwards. Currently, less than one in five tech workers are female compared with 49% across the whole UK economy so we need to work hard to change this. 

What’s positive is that there is an appetite for change. For example, the CyberFirst program run by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre saw a 60% increase in the number of girls who applied for the summer cyber courses in 2020 compared with 2019. Moving forwards, we need to build on this and encourage more young people to build their interest from summer courses to degrees that prepare them for a career in the sector.

In a world where unemployment figures are painting a dire picture of the future, cybersecurity is a degree that improves people's prospects, and right now is the time to encourage individuals to embark on a career in the sector. Not only will we have greater protection from the harm cybersecurity issues pose, but also young people with enhanced employment prospects, as they harness the skills required in an ever digital world.

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