The UK government has unveiled plans to roll out free cyber skills training for thousands of secondary school pupils.
The Cyber Explorers program aims to educate 30,000 11 to 14-year-olds on a range of cybersecurity concepts, such as open-source intelligence, digital forensics and social engineering.
The program will be delivered via a new online learning platform, in which students will explore a variety of scenarios and collect virtual badges for making smarter choices online. Participants can use characters, quizzes and activities the navigate the platform, which will also demonstrate how digital, computing and cyber skills can open up a number of career paths, including social media content creation, sports technology and medical research. New content and characters will be added over the coming weeks.
The program can be used for in-classroom teaching, after-school clubs and independent learning at home, and will complement the wider curriculum.
The initiative forms part of the UK’s national cyber strategy, published late last year. One of the aims of the strategy is to create a skilled and diverse talent pipeline for the UK’s growing cybersecurity sector. The Cyber Explorers program is designed to engage younger students with cybersecurity before they choose subjects for their GCSEs and equivalent qualifications, thereby improving the diversity of pupils picking computer science courses at that stage.
A series of events will be held in Newport, Birmingham, Bradford, Newry and Inverclyde to ensure pupils from ethnic minorities and socially deprived backgrounds can access the program.
Last year an NCSC report found that while the UK’s cyber sector has been making strides in diversity, challenges around inclusion, career progression and discrimination persist.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Steve Barclay, said: “The UK’s cybersecurity industry is growing from strength to strength and we must continue to unlock the opportunities it brings to our economy by investing in the right skills and training.
“Cyber Explorers is a fantastic opportunity to encourage a new generation to learn the essential digital skills they need for the future and get the best possible start to their careers, as well as meet demand for future talent in the sector.”
Commenting on the announcement, Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, outlined: “The cyber skills gap has been growing exponentially for some years, but recent digital acceleration has put pressure on businesses to deliver, manage and secure new platforms. This latest government initiative is an encouraging step in the right direction for creating a skilled and diverse pipeline of talent for the UK’s fast-growing and in-demand cyber security industry.
“While schools play a vital role in inspiring interest in STEM and building core capabilities – it is up to industry and businesses to maintain and build upon this. Industry and businesses must think of new ways to inspire students by showcasing the exciting possibilities of a career in cybersecurity. Mentorship, training programs and initiatives will be key in attracting and developing the tech pioneers of the future. And, as the war for talent intensifies, never has it been more crucial to develop skilled and adaptable employees who are ready to face the ever-changing nature of work.”