The government will invest at least £500,000 in four new projects to encourage more women, BAME, and neurodiverse candidates to choose cyber security as a career, thereby enhancing diversity in the industry and the fresh investment will form the second round of its Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund that was launched last year.
Aside from helping more people to choose a career in cyber security to bridge the enormous skills gap in the field, the new £500,000 funding will also ensure that there will be greater diversity among cyber security workers in the future as the programme aims to help women, BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people), and neurodiverse candidates to compete on an equal footing.
"Our cyber security industry is thriving but to support this growing success we need a skilled and diverse workforce to match. These latest projects show that whatever your background, ethnicity or sex, there are opportunities to join the cyber security profession.
"We want to demonstrate that you can have a dynamic and exciting career in a sector that sits at the heart of our economy, and is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy," said Digital Minister Margot James.
New initiatives to plug the UK's cyber skills gap
Launched in February 2018 with an initial corpus of at least £625,000, the Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund (CSIIF) is available to organisations such as training providers and charities to help them develop inititatives that identify, train and place untapped talent from a range of backgrounds into cyber security roles with the aim of growing a vibrant cyber security training ecosystem.
Last year, CSIIF funding was made available to seven initiatives that were separately operated by CompTIA, Immersive Labs, PGI Cyber Academy, the National Autistic Society (NAS), UK Cyber Security Forum Community Interest Company (CIC), Youth Fed and the Integrate Agency CIC.
This year, the fresh £500,000 funding will be jointly benefited by four new initiatives operated by Crucial Academy, QA, Blue Screen IT, and Hacker House Ltd. While Crucial Academny will use the fund to retrain veterans in cyber security, in particular focusing on women, neurodiverse candidates and BAME individuals, QA will train and place a cohort of women into cyber development job roles within industry.
At the same time, Blue Screen IT will identify, train and place neurodiverse candidates and those with special needs and those from disadvantaged backgrounds into a cyber security career and Hacker House Ltd will develop a portal allowing for an increased number of people to be trained and then engage with employers.
It's time for greater diversity in cyber security
"Any initiative that strives to create a level playing field, regardless of the game, should be encouraged. There have been numerous studies that show having a more diverse workplace actually makes an organisation a better place to work. Ultimately a successful organisation needs diverse opinions and ideas – different, and valuable, perspectives on problems," said Derek Lin, Chief Data Scientist at Exabeam.
"Women have long faced challenges when entering jobs or careers that are seen as ‘for men’. The technology industry – and cybersecurity in particular – has a reputation as a boy’s club, and this can make it difficult for women to make an impact in these organisations," said Tara O'Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft.
"People tend to hire those they recognise and identify with, and this unconscious bias can foster damaging behaviours. Traditional stereotypes negatively influence women all the way through their careers, from education right through to hiring and promotion.
"These views, however, simply don’t stand up to the facts. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Additionally, a study from Bersin by Deloitte showed that diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee than non-diverse companies did.
"Ultimately it starts with education – from school to the boardroom. In school, coding should be mandatory for everyone; complex problem solving and critical thinking should be part of every day life. In the workplace, training programmes can help people understand conscious and unconscious bias; both helping people to change the way they think, and call out unfair behaviour," she added.