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Government sponsors diversity cyber academy

The UK government has awarded a grant for the establishment of a cyber academy to promote neurodiversity in the industry

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has awarded a £50,000 grant to Immersive Labs to create a digital cyber academy for neurodivergent individuals.

The grant is part of the government’s Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund and is part of the ongoing effort to bridge the cyber skills gap. 

The academy, to be created by Immersive Labs, will be aimed at helping neurodivergent individuals to help them upskill, developing the knowledge and technical skills required for a cyber career. 

Once users of the Immersive Labs training platform satisfy various competency requirements, they will be able to apply for jobs with corporate sponsors of the academy based on those demonstrable skills.

The academy will host more than 250 labs on its platform, offering challenges for novices as well as experts.

Immersive Labs will work alongside the National Autistic Society and a Community Cyber Security Centre delivered by the UK Cyber Security Forum CIC (community interest company) to grant access to the academy’s platform using registration codes distributed to charities and schools.

This means the platform could be accessed by anyone, regardless of location and how much experience they have. Individuals can develop at home, at their own pace, with labs at their existing level of cyber knowledge and skills.

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“The Immersive Labs training platform is already recognised as the state of the art in cyber security training,” said Emma Philpott, founder and manager of the Cyber Security Forum.   

“The creation of this digital cyber academy represents an amazing opportunity for neurodiverse people to be trained up in cyber security and helps to address the growing skills gap within that field,” she said.

Emma Kearns, employment training and partnerships manager at the National Autistic Society, said it was “inspiring” to work in partnership with an organisation like Immersive Labs, which is committed to improving accessibility for autistic people with both talent and aptitude for cyber security to improve their skills and succeed in the industry.

“The creation of this digital cyber academy represents an amazing opportunity for neurodiverse people to be trained up in cyber security and helps to address the growing skills gap within that field”
Emma Philpott, Cyber Security Forum

Immersive Labs CEO James Hadley said that through the grant, and by working alongside organisations such as the National Autistic Society, Immersive Labs could work towards not only closing the skills gap, but bringing a more diverse talent pool to the industry.

“There are many incredibly talented individuals who are often overlooked when it comes to employment within our field, and it is our responsibility to provide them with the starting platform they need,” he said.

Diversity was one the main themes of the National Cyber Security Centre’s CyberUK 2018 conference in Manchester.

Research has shown that teams that are more diverse are more effective, not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of neuro-, social-, geographic- and other forms of diversity, Nicola Hudson, NCSC director of communications told attendees of the conference.

“We need to bring together people from a range of disciplines and backgrounds to work together on this. We also need to bring to bear the widest pool of talent that we possibly can, and that means we need a much more diverse workforce,” she said.

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