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Bartenders and Journalists Recruited for Elite Cyber-Training Academy

It’s the stuff of a Marvel Comics plot: A group of everyday people are brought together by low-profile government forces to make up the core of an elite force—one that will fight tirelessly for truth, justice and data security!

To address the ever-growing cyber-skills shortage, the UK government has recruited 55 amateurs, including a bartender, a journalist and a psychiatrist, as part of a nationwide quest to build a new generation of cyber-professionals.

They’re beginning an intensive 10-week course to learn in-demand cyber-skills as part of a £1.9 billion government funding effort—and I fervently hope that said training is taking place at a sprawling mansion in the country, headed up by a bald guy in a wheelchair that looks suspiciously like Captain Picard.

The course is part of the country’s National Cyber Security Strategy, and was created “in response to growing cyberthreats to British businesses and increasing industry demand for cybersecurity professionals,” which sounds much less bad-ass than it should. The students will complete hands-on exercises in real-world scenarios such as how to respond to a virus outbreak, study the ‘psychology’ of hackers, build a watertight business network, hack into IoT devices and learn how to help firms tackle the most common threats.

The government-backed SANS Institute Cyber Retraining Academy is doing the education piece. Graduates will also leave with a Global Information Assurance Certification, which not only tests a candidate's knowledge but also their ability to put that knowledge into practice in the real world.

The candidates were selected from around 4,000 applications from across the country and come from diverse backgrounds. Roughly half are from non-IT backgrounds. All candidates went through a rigorous six-stage selection process, starting with a pre-qualification assessment, then an application form, an aptitude assessment, a telephone interview and pre-qualification, and, finally, a face-to-face interview. They’ll also be evaluated on the ability to move things with their minds.

Full disclosure: I was using “alternative facts” for that last part. Alas.

Employers will be able to track participants’ progress through an online portal, and prospective employers will have the opportunity to recruit students within 10 weeks at two upcoming recruitment fairs.

“Employers can be reassured these candidates have already proven themselves to be exceptionally talented,” said UK managing director at SANS Institute, ‎Stephen Jones. “The students successfully completed a six-stage, highly competitive assessment process. They have all demonstrated they have the right aptitude to excel in a cyber-security career and will now receive world-class training.”

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