Cyber skills training will now be offered to UK students

By Alma Fabiani

Published Feb 26, 2022 at 09:05 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Called the Cyber Explorers programme, the new scheme will use characters, quizzes and activities to show students in the UK how digital and computing skills can open up a range of different career paths including social media content creation, sports technology and medical research, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced on Wednesday 23 February 2022.

Rolled out across secondary schools as part of a government plan to create a more diverse and highly skilled generation of talent for the country’s growing cybersecurity industry (and to address current skills gaps), the programme will reach thousands of children and offer them the chance to learn the cybersecurity skills used by intelligence agencies. Topics to be covered include a range of cybersecurity concepts such as open-source intelligence, digital forensics and social engineering.

Speaking about the scheme, Cyber Minister Julia Lopez said, “For years the UK has led the world in cybersecurity, but we’re now looking ahead to the future. This sector is home to some of our most exciting, innovative jobs and they must be open to everyone.” She added, “Cyber Explorers will give thousands of young people the opportunity to learn digital skills they need for the modern workplace and get the best possible start on their journey towards a career in cyber.”

While the news may seem minor to some, the UK government previously revealed that girls and pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds are currently underrepresented in IT courses at GCSE and equivalent levels. In that sense, the Cyber Explorers programme has been designed to engage students just before they choose their subjects at those levels, with the aim of improving the diversity of those on computer science courses.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay said, “The UK’s cybersecurity industry is going from strength to strength and we must continue to unlock the opportunities it brings to our economy by investing in the right skills and training. Cyber Explorers is a fantastic opportunity to encourage a new generation to learn the essential digital skills they need for the future and get the best possible start to their careers, as well as meet demand for future talent in the sector.”

Such a scheme won’t solve the problem fields like the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industry still faces when it comes to increasing gender, racial and ethnic diversity but it might be a step in the right direction.

Commenting on the announcement, Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, an educational technology company that produces learning management system software and content, outlined: “The cyber skills gap has been growing exponentially for some years, but recent digital acceleration has put pressure on businesses to deliver, manage and secure new platforms. This latest government initiative is an encouraging step in the right direction for creating a skilled and diverse pipeline of talent for the UK’s fast-growing and in-demand cyber security industry.”

She continued, “While schools play a vital role in inspiring interest in STEM and building core capabilities—it is up to industry and businesses to maintain and build upon this, to think of new ways to inspire students by showcasing the exciting possibilities of a career in cybersecurity. Mentorship, training programmes and initiatives will be key in attracting and developing the tech pioneers of the future. And, as the war for talent intensifies, never has it been more crucial to develop skilled and adaptable employees who are ready to face the ever-changing nature of work.”

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