A record number of teenagers have enrolled in the National Cyber Security Center’s (NCSC) CyberFirst summer courses this year, with classes held online for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the NCSC plans to offer a mix of classroom and virtual learning for future summer courses, even when social distancing restrictions have ended.
Taking place annually, the courses offer teenagers aged from 14-17 the opportunity to develop their digital and problem-solving skills as well as introduce them to the cyber-threat landscape. In the program, leading experts from industry and GCHQ teach topics including how to analyze common cyber-attacks, crack codes and defend devices and networks.
Moving the courses online has proved a resounding success, with a record number of applications received: 1700 students will be accepted this year, an increase of 600 compared to 2019.
Chris Ensor, deputy director for cyber-growth at the NCSC, commented: “Moving this year’s CyberFirst summer courses online has proven hugely popular, with a record number of boys and girls participating and developing their cyber-skills from home – in a way that is fun, insightful and engaging.”
Commenting on the news, Fiona Boyd, head of enterprise and cybersecurity at Fujitsu, said: “The record number of teenagers signing up to the NCSC’s CyberFirst summer courses is a fantastic first step towards tackling the STEM skills gap. The cybersecurity skills gap in particular is too large for organizations to ignore with a reported 3.5 million unfilled positions expected by 2021.
“Raising awareness of a cybersecurity career at an early age can help introduce younger students into the industry with a variety of ideas and ways of thinking. In turn, a well-trained cybersecurity team can not only prepare for the future, but stay ahead of emerging cybersecurity threats that may manifest from technologies such as AI and 5G.”
The UK government has recently introduced a number of other new initiatives to tackle the cybersecurity skills shortage. In May it announced the creation of a new online cyber-school to help develop a new generation of cybersecurity professionals.