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UK workers interested in cyber security, survey shows

Many UK workers are interested in cyber security and would consider a career in the field, a survey has revealed, which could help close the skills gap

Half of UK workers are interested in learning more about cyber security and 43% would consider changing to a career in the field, according to a survey by Course Library, an online platform for job seekers to find appropriate training courses.

The research, which surveyed 1,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 64, also revealed that 93% believe it would be beneficial for all UK workers to advance their skillset in cyber security as risk continues to grow.

At the same time, 39% believe they do not understand enough about advancing cyber security threats.

“This latest research by Course Library confirms an advancing skills and knowledge gap in cyber security – a somewhat alarming fact when we consider the exponential rate at which cyber security risks are growing,” said Jazz Gandhum, founder of Course Library.  

“Interestingly, the research also confirms a real demand for workers to learn about cyber security risks, whether in a professional capacity for career development or to form a basic understanding for self-protection. Ultimately, education is key here and will help to ensure businesses across the UK have the right skills in-house to combat this growing threat.”

The survey also asked respondents about their understanding and attitudes towards cyber security risks – just 9% thought UK businesses do enough to combat cyber threats, with 46% blaming a lack of understanding and 24% blaming a lack of education.

When asked what they thought could be done to encourage people to work in cyber security, almost half said there should be more education on the subject, and a quarter said there should be more opportunities to train online.

Lee Biggins, co-founder of Course Library, said cyber security continues to be a hot topic in the UK and a lack of skilled talent within this industry could cause more problems for already vulnerable companies.

“That said, it is positive to see that workers are open to pursuing a career within this field and it is important that the government and organisations offer opportunities for people to learn more about this field and gain the core skills necessary,” he said.

Read more about information security skills

According to the latest Global information security workforce study by information security certification body (ISC)2, the projected 1.8 million shortfall in cyber security professionals by 2022 is 20% higher than a five-year forecast previously published by the organisation in 2015. And in Europe, the shortage of cyber security professionals is expected to be about 350,000 by 2022.

In the light of these statistics, (ISC)2 chief operating officer Wesley Simpson said it is encouraging to see interest in the field. “We must do everything we can to attract more entrants into cyber security from non-traditional backgrounds, as deep technical expertise and computing and IT degrees are not necessarily prerequisites for entry into the profession,” he said.

In response to the cyber security skills shortage, the UK government is funding various initiatives directly and in partnership with UK industry to close the skills gap.

These include the Cyber Schools Programme, which aims to train thousands of teenagers in cyber security skills; the GCHQ-backed CyberFirst bursary scheme; and the CyberFirst initiative with industry to find and fast-track tomorrow’s online security experts who are about to start university or are in their first year.

Earlier this month, former GCHQ director Robert Hannigan said the UK is desperately short of cyber skills, and parents should allow children more opportunities to learn by seeing and doing things online.

A failure to include women in cyber security recruitment campaigns, the continued focus on technical skills and a gender pay gap are exacerbating the cyber security skills shortage, say industry experts.

Call to recruit women

In March this year, Hannigan called on every UK organisation to do more to encourage women into the information security profession in the face of a growing skill shortage.

“If we are not tapping into women, we are depriving ourselves of a massive talent pool,” he told the CyberUK conference in Liverpool.

In the UK, the proportion of women in cyber security stands at just 8%, and men earn an average of 15.5%, or about £11,000, more than women, according to the Global information security workforce study by (ISC)2.

GCHQ is pursuing various initiatives to encourage more women to work in computer science and cyber security, such as a competition exclusively for girls aged 13 to 15 that attracted about 8,000 participants competing in teams from more than 2,000 schools.

Hannigan also said a lot of GCHQ recruitment is based on aptitude rather than science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) qualifications, as well as through apprenticeships for school leavers.

But in the rush to skill-up through cyber security training, businesses may go down the wrong track, resulting in a false sense of security, the Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP) warned in July 2017. Companies should invest wisely in cyber security training, carefully considering the quality and real benefits, the IISP said.

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