An effective cyber security skills partnership in worth more to London than either brexit or remain

The putative benefits or risks claimed by those lobbying for your vote next week are less than organised crime in looting from Londoners and London-based businesses, let alone the losses from the failure to give users confidence in the security, let alone privacy, of their on-line activities.

I have blogged before on my position on the referendum: the result matters less than what we do afterwards, whether in or out. I have also blogged on the cost of our failure to help Europe unravel the toxic politics of privacy, security and choice.  Today I would like to put forward the plan for creating a London Cyber Security Skills partnership to move from bleating about the problems of information security to taking world leadership in implementing the solutions.

London has over 50 Universities and Colleges, some world class, but its employers regularly complain of skills shortages and contract or recruit overseas while many Londoners cannot get on the jobs ladder. As I have said before, “Blended learning” (technology assisted on-the-job training, mixed with short off-the-job motivation modules), makes it quicker and cheaper to train raw talent or existing staff than expensively trawl for some of the skills in shortest supply, such as information security. But the skills to organise effective blended learning are in even shorter supply than most other high tech skills. London has a kaleidoscope of skills programmes: from mentoring, work experience and careers advice in schools through apprenticeships (including both pre- and post- graduate) to conversion and returner programmes. But these are fragmented and rarely have promotion or marketing budgets.

The needs of Londoners, whether employers or those looking for work, vary by sector and geography, from where employers compete to attract talent into known career paths, such as the City, through technology clusters which need fast-changing, innovative skills, such as Shoreditch, to insular, sink estates, where hope is gone. The all-party Digital Policy Alliance is therefore working on the concept of local, partnerships, led by employers (seeking to meet their own skills needs), professional bodies and trades unions (seeking to place their members into work) and parents (wanting better informed choices and opportunities for their children) with a particular aim of engaging with networks of FE Colleges, who are all-to-often left out of mainstream digital skills programmes because large employers and national bodies lack the bandwidth to engage with them.

Success will depend on the cost-effective use of scarce blended learning skills to help students acquire the industry recognised qualifications and certifications currently expected by employers and recruiters (e.g. Comptia, CISCO, IBM, ISACA) in the course of their apprenticeship. The necessary materials are often available, at no charge, to the participating colleges, along with trainers competent to support delivery and assessment: a common problem with programmes start from scratch as opposed to building on what already exists. That will enable scarce resource to be focused on meeting local and emerging needs such as security by design in digital marketing: i.e. securing the now ubiquitous but notoriously vulnerable on-line apps.

It just so happens that security by design in digital marketing is the core technical skill for rebuilding confidence in the on-line world – and is a black hole when it comes to finding training on how to do it. Plugging that gap by supporting a proposal for a co-operation between a group of London FE Colleges and the Tech Partnership for a new generation of collaborative degree level apprenticeships will be one of projects for the new London Cyber Security Skills Partnership.

The other will be an exercise to address another black hole, the skills to help London’s 900,0000 SMEs to secure their systems to the IASME level, being mandated for those in the supply chains of central government. Most of London’s SMEs are one man banks who rally need to learn only how to secure their smart phone. But some, for example on Fintech supply chains, may be honeypots for access to ten or hundreds of millions of pounds worth of transactions.

Watch this space – I have to take a break but will complete this blog tomorrow.