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The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced the launch of a series of extracurricular clubs designed to teach cyber security skills.
As part of the government’s National Cyber Security Programme, up to £20m of funding has been made available to support the set-up of clubs through the Cyber Schools Programme with the aim of teaching 6,000 teenagers cyber security skills by 2021.
The clubs will be used to identify the next generation of cyber security professionals and give them the skills and encouragement they need to pursue a cyber career.
Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital and culture, said: “This forward-thinking programme will see thousands of the best and brightest young minds given the opportunity to learn cutting-edge cyber security skills alongside their secondary school studies.
“We are determined to prepare Britain for the challenges it faces now and in the future and these extracurricular clubs will help identify and inspire future talent.”
Research has found a skills shortage in the cyber security field, leading to an increased risk of cyber attacks for firms lacking the relevant cyber professionals.
Aimed at children between the ages of 14 and 18 who are enthusiastic about cyber, the Cyber Schools Programme will tackle this shortage by providing schools with funding and external instructors to teach selected students cyber skills through a mixture of in-class and online teaching.
The programme will teach a cyber curriculum which has been developed to use hands-on activities and real-world challenges to give children an idea of what cyber roles entail.
The aim is for children to begin the programme at 14 and spend four years committing four hours a week to learn cyber skills through a module-based system.
A pilot programme will launch in September 2017. It will be monitored and participating providers will be able to deliver the programme in a way they see fit.
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Cyber is one of the areas in the technology industry that is in high demand. With an increase in high-profile security breaches reported over the past few years, many firms are looking for professionals with cyber security skills.
This is not the first programme the government has invested in to increase the number of skilled cyber professionals in the UK.
In May 2016, the government announced the launch of the GCHQ-backed CyberFirst bursary scheme. It offers grants of up to £4,000 to support students studying for a relevant degree or qualification with the potential opportunity to work national security once they have graduated.
More than 2,000 places are available on the CyberFirst Scheme in 2017. The scheme is running a CyberFirst Girls Competition for 13 to 15-year-old girls who will be asked to complete a series of online puzzles and challenges.
The government is also running a Cyber Retraining Academy, launched in January 2017, to train 500 high-aptitude people over a 10-week period to gain fast jobs in the security sector.
Non-government initiatives, such as the UK Cyber Security Challenge, have also popped up across the UK to promote cyber security as a career and to identify talent.