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Why the security sector should follow FA's lead for talent development

For many years, the Football Association (FA) centre of excellence was Lilleshall, a centre that was used to train players, coaches and create the stars of the future.

During this time, England produced some excellent players and the two great squads of the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, and the 1996 European Championships. However at some point, the FA deemed this centre to be unsuitable for use in the future, so a new facility would be built to create the Alan Shearer or Wayne Rooney of the future.

However last year’s World Cup exemplified that the current crop of players are not up to the job. Is that because there was not a decent national training centre to establish the next generation? This seemed to be the case, as in October 2012 the Burton facility opened.

Now we have read the reports about how it is state of the art, and it has been used by those players who have been developed through national centres and who have won major honours, and it will take some years to produce the talent that the similar centres in France, Spain and Holland have done.

You may wonder why I am talking about football when this is meant to be about security? Well I guess I have been inspired by the efforts to increase youth skills in the football “industry” as much as I have in the information security arena. It is now only a few days since 21-year old computer science student Adam Tonks was named as the fifth winner of the annual Cyber Security Challenge.

I was delighted to have been among many members of the press attending on the first day of the 48 hour challenge, and in a room of 42 cyber security experts, and while I didn’t get the opportunity to meet with Tonks, I did meet another contestant. Andy Snowball told me that despite being what some may consider an advanced age (he was 36) in comparison to the students who had made the masterclass final, he was considering a career in the cyber sector.

Surely this is the whole point of a skills boosting exercise? To draw in those at university level and those with experience from IT in general to the cyber sector, to show what opportunities there are and what can be achieved?

Excellence in information security, as in football, needs to happen by building sound foundations over a long time. In the case of the Burton centre, the FA will hope that it will bear fruit eventually, and the shortage of world class players in the English game will be resolved.

What we need is security skills taught at the grass roots to a generation of enthusiasts to be built and a new national squad of security talent to emerge and defend our Government, industry and national defences. This will not happen overnight we realise, but if the effort is made now we will see the end product in the future.

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