Tens of thousands of students receive free training to build cyber skills

21/08/2023

AS STUDENTS get ready to go back to school this September, schools are being encouraged to take advantage of free resources to boost cyber skills and set up aspiring young people to aim for careers in cyber.

More than 50,000 students from 2,000 schools around the country have already been signed up to Cyber Explorers, a free learning platform provided by the UK Government that introduces 11-to-14-year-olds to important cyber security concepts, supporting learning objectives for Key Stage 2 and 3.

Students can explore a variety of engaging and challenging cyber scenarios, collect virtual badges, and learn tips and tricks from the Cyber Ranger and experts in the Cyber Squad. Through interactive quizzes and activities they will learn how digital, computing, and cyber skills can help them navigate the online world and unlock exciting new career paths, ranging from social media content creation to medical research, and sports technology to AI innovation.

The government has an ambition to develop a pipeline of talent to meet the growing needs of the UK’s in-demand cyber security industry. Cyber Explorers was launched in February 2022 to equip pupils with the skills and knowledge to pursue computer science courses at Key Stage 4, opening up a range of opportunities for further training and employment.

Cyber Minister Viscount Camrose said:

“The UK’s growing cyber sector is where the technological innovations and digital discoveries of the future will start. That’s why we’re focused on breaking down the barriers to entry, and creating new opportunities for young people to gain the skills and knowledge that could kick-start exciting careers in cyber.

“More than 2,000 schools across the country are already signed up to Cyber Explorers, meaning that tens of thousands of pupils can benefit from the resources on offer – and we want to make sure even more get that chance this year.”

All teachers, parents and guardians of home-schooled students have to do is register their students to access free lesson plans, resources, and guides for wider educational support.

Schools taking part in Cyber Explorers have also played host to a number of career-focused sessions for students, with visits from the likes of Amazon and Verizon showcasing to students some of the practical applications of cyber skills.

A report on cyber security skills in the UK labour market published last year found that around half of all businesses had a basic cyber skills gap. The number of cyber security job postings rose by 30 per cent to 160,000, although the cyber workforce in the UK is facing a shortfall of around 11,200 people. Women make up only 17 per cent of employees in the sector, while senior roles are typically not representative of gender or ethnic diversity across wider society.

Against this backdrop, the UK Government is investing in the next generation of cyber professionals and security experts, helping young people to develop the skills and the knowledge prized by a UK cyber sector worth £10.5 billion.

Karen Morris, Year 8 teacher, Stroud High School said:

“The Cyber Explorers platform has provided a way for us to teach about cyber skills to our Year 8 students in an engaging, and creative way. The fact that this platform is so good yet free is just fantastic!”  

Cyber Explorers is part of a suite of initiatives launched by the government to build and strengthen cyber skills for those in education and employment. The National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) CyberFirst programme is designed to nurture talent and help under-25s develop a passion for tech by introducing them to the world of cyber security, offering support, skills, experience, and exciting opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said:

“I’m always delighted to see more students being introduced to the exciting world of cyber security, and Cyber Explorers acts a fun and engaging first step on that journey.

“The UK’s cyber industry is growing rapidly, but it’s facing a skills shortage as a result – which is why it’s so important to have initiatives such as Cyber Explorers which work to uncover cyber talent and support young people across the country in exploring the career opportunities this thriving industry has to offer.

“As part of the CyberFirst Programme, Cyber Explorers will play a key role in making cyber more accessible to young people, building the cyber skills pipeline of the future.”

The government’s commitment to enhancing and expanding Britain’s cyber skills is set out in the Science and Technology Framework and the £2.6 billion National Cyber Strategy.

Programmes such as Cyber Explorers and Cyber First continue to play a vital role in that mission as builds a digital workforce to unleash innovation, unlock opportunity, and secure the UK’s digital economy.

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