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Establishing a school specialising in cyber skills at Bletchley Park has moved a step closer following Deloitte’s decision to sponsor students on the Qufaro CyberEPQ (Extended Project Qualification) online course.
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In September, 60 students successfully completed the first Qufaro online CyberEPQ, which is equivalent to an AS-level.
At the first graduation ceremony in front of the Rebuild of Colossus at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, 94-year-old Irene Dixon, who operated the machine during the Second World War, spoke of her pioneering secret wartime work. “We didn’t fully understand the importance of the work we were doing with Colossus until decades after the Second World War,” she said.
“Later we learned that Colossus was used to break Lorenz, the German High Command messages. I see quite clearly that these students today are on the first steps of their career to safeguard our country from cyber threats – the way we were protecting the country from Hitler.”
Deloitte has said it will sponsor the fees of hundreds of students for the next Qufaro online CyberEPQ. Enrolment opened on 23 October and will continue until the end of November.
Phill Everson, head of cyber risk services at Deloitte UK, said: “Deloitte is proud to be sponsoring the CyberEPQ and supporting hundreds of young learners across the UK who want to gain an understanding of the fundamentals of cyber security.
“There is no doubt that cyber security is of increasing importance to the UK, and for years there has been talk of a growing shortage of talent. Through its development of this new qualification, Qufaro is working to tangibly address that shortage, and we support that strongly.”
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Speaking to Computer Weekly, Budgie Dhanda from Qufaro said: “There are three times as many vacancies for cyber skills as there are applicants. We have had interest from all over businesses because they cannot get enough talent.”
Dhanda said the cyber skills gap is also well recognised in government, and it is important to get children at school learning cyber skills, which they can then develop further at university.
“There is a huge demand from kids, but they are unsure of the career paths,” he said. Schools have also tended to teach programming rather than cyber security skills, he added.
Commenting on the opportunities, Dhanda said: “You can be a pen-tester, a chief security officer, or you can go into areas of the business like HR because you understand how to build security into HR policies.”
But he added: “There are a number of challenges. Schools are not really geared up to teach cyber security and computer science. Kids seem to be more interested in the subject than the teachers are.”
There is also the negative connotation associated with hacking and cyber crime, which may put off students and teachers, said Dhanda. “There is a negative aspect. Just look at the news. The cyber world is over-dramatised. But cyber security is more than sitting on a laptop with a hoodie on.”
As and when the cyber skills college is established at Bletchley, said Dhanda, “we’ll teach A-level physics, maths plus ethics, HR, legal and commercial issues”.