UK cyber security chief bigs up emergence of young talent

DataIQ News

The head of the Government's new National Cyber Security Centre - which was launched last month as part of a £1.9bn commitment to bolster the UK's  online defences - insists the skills shortage is being addressed and that there is new talent coming through to tackle the huge threat posed by cyber criminals.

Ciaran Martin, who was the director general for government and industry cyber security at GCHQ before becoming chief executive of NCSC, was speaking on the first day of the CyberUK 2017 event being held in Liverpool this week.

The conference claims to be the Government’s biggest and most influential information architecture and cyber security event to date, with over 3,000 delegates already registered.

Asked by BBC Breakfast whether the UK has the skills to combat rising cyber crime, Martin flagged up a new CyberFirst Girls Competition, in which thousands of school girls will compete to be the best young coders in the country.

He said: "We are fostering a [cyber secuirty] culture, with people coming through the education system. This month 8,500 13- to 15-year old girls will be showing how brilliant they are at coding, and this year we have a record number of entries, it's fantastic. We have a pipeline of talent coming through, so in the future we can fix these problems."

The NCSC has also expanded its CyberFirst student programme, which aims to find, finesse and fast-track tomorrow’s online security experts about to start university or in their first year.

Up to 250 recruits will now be able to receive £4,000 student bursaries, paid work placements and employment on graduation after more than 20 companies pledged their support to the Government initiative.

Officially launched in May 2016, the first CyberFirst bursary programme saw over 800 applicants competing for 93 places in 2016. This year, the number of bursary places on offer has risen to 250.

Each successful applicant will receive an annual £4,000 bursary to study a relevant degree, 8-10 week placements within GCHQ, at a GCHQ Cyber Academy or with industry partners, or at GCHQ Cyber Summer Schools during university holidays and, depending on meeting requirements, the chance to work in national security on graduation.

Martin said: "These bursaries are a brilliant opportunity for the brightest and best. A thousand cyber first graduates is a thousand steps on the way to building the world class cyber security workforce at a national level. These are skills we desperately need."

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