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UK Government gets serious on developing security skills in 2016

In the past 12 months, we’ve seen a persistent worldwide threat from cyber-criminals. The FBI, TalkTalk and Ashley Madison headline a list of companies and government organisations that have been the victim of high profile hacks and data breaches in 2015.

With the average cost of an online security breach for big UK businesses now reported to be between £1.46 and £3.14 million, it’s unsurprising cyber security investment and skills development tops the UK Government’s agenda in 2016.

UK Government announces plans to double investment on cyber spending

The ever growing threat from cyber criminals, both at home and abroad, has forced the government to act. At the Chancellor's speech to GCHQ on cyber security in November 2015, George Osborne announced the provision to almost double investment to protect Britain. This amounts to a further £1.9 billion over the next five years taking the government’s total cyber spend to £3.2 billion.

This investment will aims to support the national cyber plan. The plan consists of five major steps to significantly strengthen the nations cyber defence. These include:

  • More effective protection and collection within the UK
  • A single National Cyber Centre, replacing the current mess of cyber security agencies
  • The development of a National Offensive Cyber Programmer to counter cyber attacks
  • Programmes to support the best cyber start-ups
  • Increase the nation’s cyber skills

The final step being the most critical, developing the cyber security skills of the individuals required to keep Britain safe in cyberspace.

Global cyber security workforce shortage projected to widen to 1.5 million by 2020

If Britain is to keep pace with the growing threat from cyber criminals, then it must reverse what is a growing workforce shortage. The 2015 Global Information Security Workforce Study from (ISC)2 projects a global shortfall of 1.5 million professionals by 2020. This shortfall is the difference between the projection of the workforce needed to fully address security staffing needs and the workforce supply constraints.

This does not mean organisation’s aren’t hiring, quite the contrary, this very same reports estimates an additional 195,000 information security professionals globally by the end of 2015. That’s a 6 per cent increase on 2014, it’s just not enough to keep pace with a rapidly expanding marketplace. According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the cyber security sector is expected to grow from £2.8 billion in 2013 to £3.4 billion in 2017.

So how does the Government’s investment plan to develop these cyber skills?

UK Government to launch two Cyber Security Apprenticeships

In short, Apprenticeships.

In 2015 we witnessed the rise of a new kind of apprenticeship. Known as Trailblazers, these new apprenticeships are designed by employers, for employers. The outcome being apprenticeship standards aligned to job roles that develop the skills individuals need to make meaningful contribution to their company.

Last week, the Government ended consultations for a set of new National Occupational Standards for Information Security. These standards will be used to create two new apprenticeships aligned to the following cyber security job roles:

  • Cyber Security Professional – the apprentice will develop the skills to understand cyber threats, risks, hazards, controls, measures and mitigations required to protects an organisations systems and employees.
  • Cyber Intrusion Analyst - the apprentice will develop the skills to detect security breaches in the network for escalation to incident response or other determined functions.

By offering significant funding incentives, the Government is actively encouraging employers to take on apprentices, developing the cyber security skills the country so desperately needs. They’ve also gone a step further by opening these apprenticeships, offering funding for all age groups and to existing employees, not just new hires.

For every £1,000 employers spend, the government will contribute a further £2,000 – so employers only pay a third of the training fees. Once the employee is signed-up to the apprentice programme, employers will receive cash incentives from the government throughout the programme, which can reach £10,800.

Image source: Shutterstock/Den Rise