The emergence of cyber security apprenticeships and why they’re important

Technology is forcing our industries to evolve at a rapid pace. From retail to finance and manufacturing, technology is a catalyst of change and it’s what’s shaping the way we live and work.

The technical skills gap in the UK has been much discussed by industry leaders and the government alike. Just last month Theresa May put the expansion of vocational education at the heart of her new proactive industrial strategy. From an industry perspective, we cannot expect oven-ready people to come out of education without our support. With reports of cyber-attacks going through the roof, we have a responsibility to make sure we’re preparing the next generation for the digital future we’ve created for them, and challenges that come with it.

For major corporations with deep pockets, finding the time and money to create a formal apprenticeship scheme is fairly straightforward. However, without such luxuries, SMEs don’t often realise the true value of nurturing young talent, or the long term business benefit.

The modern apprentice

The word “apprentice” to some conjures up old industrial images of spotty youths in oversized overalls taking on their parents’ trade, but the reality is the students of this generation are digital natives. They only know a technologically-driven world where the likes of Elon Musk is their Take That, and have grown up in the midst of discussions over privacy, data security and even accusations of government-level hacking.

What this means is there’s a pool of largely untouched talent out there that’s just waiting for an opportunity to get stuck into the digital world. And this is a huge opportunity for SMEs, particularly those in the cybersecurity space.


The cyber security demand: the bigger picture

Taking a long term view, ensuring the next generation has the cyber-skills that we need to serve our customers is as much our responsibility as it is that of education institutions. A recent report by recruitment website ‘Indeed’ found that despite a rise in cyber security job vacancies in Britain by 32% between 2014 and 2016, candidate numbers failed to keep pace. As a result Britain’s cyber security skills gap emerged as the second worst in the world.

The role of a cyber security technologist has never been as important, with more and more organisations falling foul to hackers each day. From scanning computers, networks and web applications for vulnerabilities that could be exploited, to searching social media for potential new threats, it’s an exciting role on the front line protecting businesses’ most critical assets. In the past year, we’ve seen security research break into mainstream media as cybercriminals get more inventive, and it’s essential we invest in the workforce of tomorrow that can help us fight the war on cybercrime.

Filling the gap before it’s too late

The reality is that for those that are struggling to see the business benefits of apprenticeships now, they’ll soon find out what a skills shortage means in the near future. It can seem like just stats now, but what happens when those stats become the losses to your bottom line? If we don’t invest in young talent, we’ll be the ones responsible for when it runs out.

By John Madelin, CEO at Reliance acsn.

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