Government backs cyber skills in new school initiative

A new online learning platform has been announced by the UK government to support students in learning relevant cyber and computing skills

Thousands of secondary school students will learn essential cyber security skills for free through a new government backed online learning platform. 

The Cyber Explorers initiative forms part of the UK government’s aim to create highly-skilled talent in the cyber security industry in support of the fast-growing and in-demand sector. 

The platform aims to introduce 30,000 children (aged 11-14) to important security concepts such as open-source intelligence, digital forensics and social engineering.  

Along with the help of the Cyber Ranger and the Cyber Squad, students will have thew chance to explore different scenarios and collect virtual badges for making smarter choices online. 

Cyber Explorers utilises characters, quizzes and activities to demonstrate how cyber skills can open the door to a range of career paths, including social media content creation, sports technology and medical research. Brand new content and characters will launch over the coming weeks. 

For years the UK has led the world in cyber security 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. 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 – Julia Lopez MP, minister for media, data and digital infrastructure 

The new platform is being rolled out as part of the government’s National Cyber Strategy. It will complement the existing CyberFirst programme of activities led by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). 

Last week new data published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport showed that cyber security in the UK is now worth more than £10 billion, with more than 6,000 new jobs created last year.  

Despite this, only a third of companies are confident they will be able to access the digital skills they need in the years to come. The government hopes initiatives like this will make up for the lack of relevant training needed in this sector. 

Encouraging diversity 

Girls and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds have been shown to be underrepresented in IT courses at GCSE and level, and the trend continues into today’s cyber workforce.  

Just 16% of roles in the sector are filled by women and many senior roles are not fully representative of wider society.  

Designed to engage younger students before they choose subjects for their GCSEs and equivalent qualifications, Cyber Explorers aims to improve the diversity of pupils picking computer science courses at Key Stage 4. 

“Supporting young people to develop cyber skills is vital for addressing the sector’s skills gap and for keeping the UK the safest place to live and work online,” said Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for cyber growth. 

“Cyber Explorers will play a key role in making cyber more accessible to young people, complementing the wider CyberFirst programme and inspiring students to pursue careers in the field.” 

A series of events will be run by local businesses and networks in Newport, Birmingham, Bradford, Newry and Inverclyde to ensure young people from ethnic minority and socially deprived backgrounds have the support and access they need to benefit from the programme. 

The platform can be used in and out of the classroom, suiting both traditional teaching methods and independent learning at home to ensure it complements the wider school curriculum. 

“The UK’s cyber security industry is growing 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,” said Steve Barclay, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. 

“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.”  

You might also like: Almost 12,000 schools could fall victim to cybercrime this year

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