NCSC Opens Registration for 2021 CyberFirst Girls Competition

NCSC Opens Registration for 2021 CyberFirst Girls Competition

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has announced its annual CyberFirst Girls Competition is now open for registrations, with a mission to inspire the next generation of young women to pursue a career in the industry.

Although set-up as an off-shoot of GCHQ to advise and protect UK organizations from cyber-threats, one of the NCSC’s other core goals is to help address chronic cybersecurity skills shortages in the UK.

According to government figures published in March, 48% of businesses have a basic cyber-skills gap. This is defined as those in charge of cybersecurity lacking "the confidence to carry out the kinds of basic tasks laid out in the government-endorsed Cyber Essentials scheme, and are not getting support from external cybersecurity providers.”

What’s more, 25% of firms said that such gaps prevent them from achieving their business goals. The industry is also woefully lacking in diversity: just 15% of the cyber-workforce is female versus 28% in the wider digital sector, the report claimed.

The CyberFirst Girls Competition offers female students in Year 8 in England and Wales, Year 9 in Northern Ireland and S2 in Scotland the opportunity to test their skills in a “fun but challenging” environment.

Teams of four students participate in an online qualifier lasting 10 days, before a regional semi-final round and then the grand final on April 26 2021.

The opening of registrations comes hot on the heels of another initiative from the NCSC: EmPower Cyber Week. Running last week, the event saw scores of schools from around the country participate in virtual presentations designed to show pupils aged 12-13 what careers in cybersecurity look like.

Topics including coding, cryptography and logic were delivered in a highly accessible manner. For example, a “Popstars and Passwords” track taught students to create strong passwords using three random words and their favourite pop stars. A “Python Mind Reader” course used the eponymous programming language to create a simple game.

“The NCSC is committed to creating an environment where cybersecurity can thrive, and we’re pleased that our drives to reach school-aged children are inspiring the next generation of cyber-experts,” said NCSC deputy director for cyber-growth, Chris Ensor.

“The CyberFirst program looks to offer pupils and students as many chances as possible to develop valuable cyber-skills – and we would strongly encourage girls to register for next year’s CyberFirst Girls competition.”

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