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Record numbers looking to kickstart new careers in cyber

A record number of people are looking to embark on a new career in cyber this year through applications to the government’s Upskill in Cyber programme.

Of the more than 3,600 applications received, almost half have been submitted by women with more than 50% coming from people based outside London and the South East, demonstrating the diverse pool of talent waiting to be unlocked across the UK.

Aimed at people from a non-cyber background and delivered in partnership with the SANS Institute, the scheme is the latest in a series of ambitious programmes delivered through the government’s £2.6 billion National Cyber Strategy.

This is all part of the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology’s plans to build a thriving tech workforce and secure the resilience of the future digital economy while supporting the Prime Minister’s priority of growing the economy and creating better paid jobs.

Minister for AI and Intellectual Property, Viscount Camrose, said: The UK’s cyber sector is growing exponentially. In just 12 months we’ve seen our 58,000 strong workforce jump by 10%, and ensuring we can maintain a steady supply of diverse, highly-skilled professionals is vital to meet the needs of our growing digital economy.

It’s encouraging to see record numbers from a wide range of backgrounds and communities coming forward for this year’s Upskill in Cyber Programme. However, this is ultimately just one piece of the puzzle.

We must continue our work with industry and education to improve tech skills across the economy, and we are continuing to invest in the potential of our brightest minds at all levels to unlock opportunity for people right across the country.

With government-backed schemes such as Cyber Explorers and Cyber First already up and running and inspiring under-25s to consider a career in cyber, Upskill in Cyber focuses on giving opportunities to those already in the workforce by offering 14-week training programmes to equip people with the skills and knowledge they need to embark on new careers in the sector.

Cyber skills are in huge demand across the economy. Last year’s cyber security skills in the UK labour market report found that 51% of businesses have a basic cyber skills gap, with an average of 21,600 new recruits needed every year to meet demand in the cyber sector. To meet this growing demand, the government has already acted on its science and technology superpower ambitions to equip future generations with vital skills from an early age.

One of the ways this is being achieved is through the Cyber Explorers programme. Launched in 2022, the scheme teaches essential skills to 11 to 14-year-olds through a free online learning platform, including key security concepts such as open-source intelligence and digital forensics. Ensuring students of all ethnicities and those from socially deprived backgrounds can realise the programme’s benefits has been a central aspect of its design, with a series of local business-led events in Wales, Yorkshire, Birmingham, and Inverclyde offering vital support to unlock talent across the UK. Over 22,000 young people and 2,000 schools signed up for the programme in its first phase and the government is aiming to exceed 45,000 students this year.

The National Cyber Security Centre’s CyberFirst programme is another example of the huge strides the government is taking to boost the UK’s digital skills and encourage passionate students to follow careers in cyber. Including comprehensive bursary schemes for undergraduate study, a girls’ only competition, and thousands of free course places at UK universities and colleges, the scheme nurtures talent at all ages from secondary school through to further education.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said: Cyber security is an exciting and rapidly growing industry with opportunities in a wide range of areas. To meet this, we must build a sustainable – and crucially diverse – pipeline of talent.

Collaboration across the industry will be key to filling the skills gap, including through initiatives like CyberFirst. We want to empower tomorrow’s cyber experts with the tools they need to keep the UK secure and resilient online.

Global tech leaders have also started following the government’s lead to bridge the digital skills gap with new in-house initiatives. In May, Google launched a new Cybersecurity Career Certificate programme as a platform to develop the skills to fill critical cybersecurity roles, with students able to complete the scheme in under six months through part-time study.

The Science and Technology Framework and the National Cyber Strategy established the government’s commitment to enhancing and expanding the nation’s cyber skills at every level. Programmes such as Upskill in Cyber, Cyber First, and Cyber Explorers continue to play a vital role in that mission as builds a digital workforce to unleash innovation, unlock opportunity, and secure the UK’s digital economy.

Commenting on the news, Suid Adeyanju, CEO of RiverSafe said: “Whilst these figures are encouraging, much more needs to be done to tackle the UK’s cyber skills shortfall. Building a thriving cyber security industry requires a dynamic and diverse workforce, and still not enough is being done to attract women and people from diverse backgrounds to enter the industry. With the rise of ransomware putting businesses and critical national infrastructure at risk, we need a much more ambitions nationwide cyber skills plan to boost our expertise in this area.

The Upskill programme is making excellent progress on getting more women into cyber, but we also need a concerted effort from businesses, industry groups, schools, and universities to transform the learning process and inspire more people to enter the industry. Doing so will not only better protect our businesses, it will provide a major boost for UK GDP.”

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Record numbers looking to kickstart new careers in cyber

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