With the support of leading organisations working in cyber security, TeenTech are producing a series of films and events to help students, parents and teachers understand the opportunities in an industry set to offer over 4.5 million more jobs worldwide by 2019
With half a billion identities stolen in 2015 and most large businesses facing at least three cyber attacks a year, the demand for skilled cyber security professionals has never been higher and will only increase, according to leading cyber security firm Symantec.
And while the routes to traditional careers such as medicine and law are well signposted, TeenTech’s CEO Maggie Philbin says there is a knowledge gap which needs to be bridged when it comes to the opportunities available in this emerging sector.
The 40,000 people currently employed in the UK industry earn average salaries at £60,000 per year while senior roles pay upwards of £100,000. Awareness is also lacking in the skills needed to succeed in the jobs, with creativity, curiosity and the ability to strategise- which many young people learn from gaming- often as important as high level coding abilities.
TeenTech worked with some of the country’s biggest cyber security firms, including BT, the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, Raytheon and Symantec, to involve young people from across the UK in a range of lively activities to bring cyber security and the people who work in it to life. We also talked to Cylon who run Europe’s first accelerator and incubator space for cyber security start ups.
The teenagers, who previously had little knowledge or enthusiasm got together in London to gain insight into multiple career routes and a taste of the skills needed to succeed.
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TeenTech’s CEO Maggie Philbin said: “Unfortunately careers in cyber security do seem to be a rather well-kept secret as far as teenagers and indeed parents are concerned. When I’ve talked to young people studying the right subjects or with the right aptitudes for a career in cyber, with only one exception – a boy who said, “Yeah, I’ve sort of thought about that, maybe I should look into it”, not a single one had considered working in that area. That’s a real shame because it’s a lively industry with a fantastic range of opportunities which can be extremely well paid or offer unique challenges on the front line against criminal or other harmful entities. It’s also an industry where women currently earn more than men.”
“We want to reach out to young people from a broad range of backgrounds who might be unaware of how much they would enjoy working in the industry. At the moment the opportunities are completely invisible to most students, teachers and parents. We hope the film will ignite their interest and that cyber security will at the very least be on their radar as a career option.”
Rob Partridge, Head of BT’s Security Academy added: “One of the issues to date has been the lack of clear pathways into the profession whereas it’s really easy to see how to be an accountant or a vet or a doctor. However there are now 13 Universities identified as Academic Centres of Excellence for cyber and a growing number of apprenticeships offered by both the public and private sector.
“Companies recognise it’s not always easy to recruit people “ready-made” straight from academic environments and nothing beats hands on experience in a cyber security environment. BT are the largest private sector employer of apprentices. They join at 18, do a degree without any student debt and they get a guaranteed job. So it’s a fantastic opportunity.”
“We hope this makes students and parents curious enough to explore all the apprenticeships and graduate programmes on offer. The talent is out there but we know many students are either unaware of the opportunities or are self-eliminating themselves because they don’t realise how well they are suited to the opportunities and most importantly, how much they would enjoy these roles,” says Maggie.
Dr Jessica Barker, a security consultant says: “It was fantastic to see so many different young people at the TeenTech Cyber day, who had a broad range of interests and some of whom had never thought about a career in IT, let alone cyber security, before the event. Cyber security sounds like a highly technical subject, and of course there are very technical roles, but it is also a diverse subject that is increasingly attracting people from different backgrounds. Cyber security is about people working with technology: as much as we need people with technical skills we also need people with good communication skills, so specialisms like sociology and psychology also have a place”
Ben Russell from the National Crime Agency (NCA) adds: “Working to fight cyber crime and strengthen the UK’s cyber security offers young people exciting challenges and huge career possibilities. Within the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, we use skills ranging from data analysis to computer programming and from digital forensics to industry relations, all of which contribute to our unique work against the most serious international cyber criminals. This type of work is not just for one kind of person, so we urge anyone with an interest in technology and the online world to look into opportunities in law enforcement and cyber security.”
Like thousands of young people across the UK the students who took part in the Cyber day were unaware they were already honing skills extremely valuable to industry, such as an ability to strategise by playing computer games.
FC, Head of Security at Raytheon says: “We need people in this industry with a breadth of skills, rather than necessarily having in-depth technical knowledge of one area. Programming skills are in-demand, as is the ability to handle and interpret large quantities of data, working out patterns and spotting odd behaviour in those patterns. Most importantly, we are looking for people with the ability and desire to keep learning new things, who pay attention to detail and who are able to adapt to changing situations. Cyber security is essentially about having the right mind-set – you can learn the skills.”
Dr Jessica Barker adds: “Cyber security can be a well-paid profession, especially as you advance in your career. However, this is not what generally attracts people to the jobs, or what keeps them in the industry. The best thing about working in cyber security is the pace of change and the fact that there’s always something new to learn, which means you are never bored. People in this industry generally love to learn, and to share that knowledge, which means that it is a very supportive community where people like to pass on what they have discovered. Every industry needs cyber security professionals, too, so whether you are interested in sport, fashion, politics, TV, the media or anything else – everyone needs to keep their information safe so there are opportunities to work wherever you want.”