A government-backed competition to encourage school-aged children to pursue a career in cybersecurity persuaded thousands across the UK to enter this year.
Thirteen teams were named champions of their region at the 2023 CyberFirst Girls Competition finals last weekend, with more than 8700 entering the contest, according to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).
After passing an online qualifying round, teams of up to four aged 12–13 were invited to face off against each other in regional finals. The challenges posed to teams included tests of their knowledge of cryptography and logic, artificial intelligence and networking.
The winners from each regional final have been invited to a grand prize-giving dinner and celebration day later this year, where a host of other prizes will be handed out, including the top scoring team, school, state newcomer and most team entries award.
The industry increasingly needs to build a pipeline of talent to replace retiring cybersecurity professionals whose successors are in short supply.
According to the ISC2, there’s a current shortfall of 3.4 million security professionals globally, including nearly 57,000 in the UK and over 410,000 in the US.
Although diversity is improving, women account for just 30% of those under 30 and even fewer (24%) 30–38 year olds in the industry. For older age groups, their share of the workforce falls to between 12 and 14%.
That’s part of the reason for the NCSC’s focus on school-aged girls for this competition.
“The 2023 CyberFirst Girls Competition has been a great success, and I’d like to pay testament to the teachers who have inspired and supported their students throughout and also thank industry partners for their support in making this all possible,” said NCSC deputy director for cyber growth, Chris Ensor.
“It’s heartening to see so many young people engage with cybersecurity, and I hope that many of you will pursue a career within the industry and protect the UK from future online threats.”