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3,600 potential cyber security experts apply to government scheme

The UK government’s Upskill in Cyber programme is reporting great success just a month after launch, with almost half of applicants women

Over 3,600 people across the UK have applied to take part in the government’s Upskill in Cyber programme this year, with almost half of interested candidates women and over half coming from outside London and South-East England.

Upskill in Cyber, which was only officially launched in May 2023, is delivered through the SANS Institute, a security training and certification body, and is just one of a number of programmes currently being delivered under the auspices of Westminster’s £2.6bn National Cyber Strategy, launched at the end of 2021. It is delivered over a 14-week course that equips people with the basic skills and knowledge needed to kickstart a career in IT security.

The programme operates in support of the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology (DSIT) plan 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”.

“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,” said Viscount Camrose, minister for AI and intellectual property.

“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,” said Camrose.

Read more about the security skills gap

The government said that last year, 51% of UK businesses reported a basic security skills gap, and it believes the UK needs an average of 21,000 new recruits every year going forward, just to keep up with demand.

As such, Upskill in Cyber is aimed at people from a non-cyber background and is designed to complement schemes – such as the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC’s) Cyber Explorers and CyberFirst schemes – that are aimed at schoolchildren and the under-25s, by providing a route into IT security for adults who have already established themselves in the workforce but may want to make a change.

“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,” said the NCSC’s deputy director for cyber growth, Chris Ensor.

“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.”

Suid Adeyanju, CEO of RiverSafe, a supplier of security, data operations and DevOps services, said: “While 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.”

The government did not reveal how many of the applicants to the Upskill in Cyber scheme are retraining after a career in ballet dancing.

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