47% rise in the number of girls applying for NCSC’s CyberFirst Competition

The National Cyber Security Centre has announced that the number of girls applying for its CyberFirst summer courses rose by 47% in 2019 even though there was only a 29% increase in the overall number of applications for the courses compared to 2018.

In January last year, the National Cyber Security Centre announced the launch of the first-of-its-kind CyberFirst Girls Competition which, it said, would provide "a fun but challenging environment to encourage and inspire the next generation of young women to consider computer science as an option with a view to a future career in cyber security".

NCSC said that girls who were in year 8 in England, S2 in Scotland, and year 9 in Northern Ireland were eligible to participate in the competition. The competition required participants to solve challenges based on three difficulty levels: beginner, intermediate and expert, and also to work together in groups to solve new challenges.

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On Ada Lovelace Day last week, the cyber security watchdog said that it had noticed a 47 percent surge in the number of young girls applying for its CyberFirst summer courses. This was disproportionately high compared to the overall number of applications filed in 2019 compared to the previous year.

"Nearly 12,000 girls took part in the prestigious CyberFirst Girls Competition 2019 and 705 of these enjoyed places on CyberFirst Defenders courses. Defenders, for 14 to 15-year-olds, is an introduction to how to build and protect small networks and personal devices," it said.

"We’re delighted to see so many young people interested in finding out more about cyber security. The significant rise in female applications is especially pleasing, and something we want to see continue into the future," said Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Growth.

"It’s never been more important to increase and diversify the cyber security workforce and we’re committed to nurturing the next generation of skilled experts and addressing the gender imbalance," Ensor added.

NCSC also using CyberFirst programme to train defence personnel

In October last year, the Ministry of Defence, along with the National Cyber Security Centre, also launched its Cadets CyberFirst programme to impart cyber security skills and expertise to over 2,000 cadets every year. The objective was to equip over 2,000 military cadets a year with cyber security skills and expertise to empower them to tackle emerging cyber threats in future.

While Ministry of Defence cadet organisations and the GCHQ National Cyber Security Centre are delivering the Cadets CyberFirst programme to over 2,000 cadets every year, the government is also investing over £1 million every year in the programme and is also in the process of increasing the number of cadets in school units from 43,000 to 60,000 by 2024, thereby allowing young people to learn more skills by joining cadet schools.

"With many cadets going on to join the armed forces, this scheme should help the MoD get a head start on equipping recruits with vital cybersecurity skills. It can also help get smart, would-be hackers on side, before they’re tempted to use their skills for less worthy means," says Michael Madon, SVP & GM security awareness at Mimecast.

Image source: NCSC

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