Over 1850 teenagers signed up for a government-backed cybersecurity skills initiative this summer, a record number, according to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

The CyberFirst summer course is run by the GCHQ off-shoot and went online-only last year during the pandemic.

That saw record participation which has been surpassed again in 2021, the NCSC claimed. The number of applications this year was also record-breaking, increasing from 3,909 in 2020 to 4,384.

The course itself is open to 14 to 17-year-olds and covers topics such as digital forensics, ethical hacking and cryptography. Pupils now have the option of attending in person at a location in Warwickshire or completing it online.

This year, 43% of attendees were girls, and nearly half (47%) were pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds. Both groups are under-represented in the industry.

CyberFirst courses are intended to spur and nurture an interest in cybersecurity, which will ultimately help close major skills shortages and gaps in the sector.

According to the government, half (50%) of businesses have a basic skills gap — which means those in charge of cybersecurity don’t have the confidence to perform basic tasks. Meanwhile, the shortage of cyber professionals in the UK is estimated at over 27,000, according to the ISC2.

“It’s fantastic to see so many young people engaging with cyber security and developing the skills that will help them thrive in the industry,” said Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for cyber growth.

“Our summer courses provide fun, hands-on opportunities to learn about defending our digital world and we hope they will be inspired to pursue their interests further. The next generation of cyber experts must be diverse as well as skilled, and through CyberFirst we are committed to making the industry a more accessible and inclusive place for all.”

More than 55,000 students have taken part in CyberFirst courses and the Girls Competition since 2016.

Leave a Reply