NCSC to offer fresh CyberFirst courses to 14-to-17-year-olds

17 May 2018

| Author: Jay Jay

Late last year, the government launched its Cyber Discovery Programme for 10-13-year-olds to help reduce the cyber security skills gap in the future. Led by the likes of Cyber Security Challenge UK, SANS Institute, FutureLearn and BT, the programme, which was part of the government’s CyberFirst initiative, attracted over 20,000 young boys and girls from across the UK by the turn of the year.

Out of those students who signed up for the programme, 2,000 students were from London, 500 from Manchester, 600 from Birmingham, and another 300 were from Nottingham. The programme stated that with the UK economy becoming increasingly digital, there is a critical need to rapidly increase the number of cyber security professionals in the UK. As such, ‘cyber security is now central to national security and to ensuring that the UK is a safe place to live and work’.

New programmes for 14-to-17-year-olds

Following on the success of the Cyber Discovery programme, the government has now launched a new programme to help 14-to-17-year-olds in the UK choose cyber security careers in the future. As part of the programme, the National Cyber Security Centre, along with education charity The SmallPeice Trust, will provide 23 CyberFirst courses in various cities to over one thousand teenagers.

The new programme has been divided into three parts, namely CyberFirst Defenders, CyberFirst Futures, and CyberFirst Advanced, all of which will cater to different age groups. The CyberFirst Defenders course will be a free five-day residential and non-residential course aimed at 14-to-15-year-olds and will provide “a valuable introduction to the tools, knowledge, and skills required to build and protect small networks and personal devices”.

The CyberFirst Futures course will also be provided for free to 15-to-16-year-olds, especially to students looking to study computer science at AS/A Levels, or equivalents. Those participating in the programme will explore advanced cyber security threats to devices, apps, and software and investigate ways of protecting them.

The free CyberFirst Advanced course will be provided to 16-to-17-year-olds and its aim will be to expand the knowledge of anyone studying computer science at AS/A Levels or equivalents or for any student who has a real interest and aptitude for computers. All three courses will be delivered across the UK between 16 July and 31 August this year.

The National Cyber Security Centre will also arrange separate CyberFirst Defenders, CyberFirst Futures, and CyberFirst Advanced courses exclusively for girls, and these will be delivered in Warwick.

“CyberFirst is a bold and innovative programme aimed at supporting and developing the UK’s potential cyber security talent and helping to address the cyber skills gap.

“Millennials are arguably the most naturally adept at using technology. Most have used internet-enabled devices from a very early age and have an instinctive understanding of how to use them but not necessarily how they work and how to protect them.

“As well as equipping young people with cutting-edge skills, these courses will help prepare them for a possible career in cyber security and a role in making Britain the safest place to live and work online,” said Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for cyber skills and growth.

“It is clear that the UK has insufficient numbers of cyber security experts to meet demand. As technology continues to evolve, that need will only intensify. The simple fact is we need more students coming through and filling these roles. These CyberFirst courses aim to provide a fun and compelling learning experience, which will inspire and incentivise young people to consider a rewarding and excting career in cyber security,” said Dr Kevin Stenson, chief executive of The Smallpeice Trust.

Additional cyber security training programmes

In order to plug the rising skills gap in cyber security, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launched an ambitious £20 million Cyber Schools Programme last year that aimed to help teenagers learn the latest cyber security skills and techniques alongside their secondary school studies. Through this programme, the government is aiming to train 5,700 teenagers by 2021.

The government has also introduced many 10-week cyber security boot camps, officially known as Cyber Retraining Academy, to ‘encourage and develop potential new cyber security professionals’. The training is fully-funded by the government, does not require any previous cyber security experience among recruits, and confers trainees with industry-recognised GCIH certification to help them apply for cyber security jobs.

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