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Solving the data centre skills shortage

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By Stephen Whatling, Chairman at BCS

The growth in demand for data centres worldwide has posed many challenges in recent years and this has now been expedited by the Covid-19 pandemic. Following a major uplift in demand for data services since March, the need for a resilient data infrastructure has never been greater.

However, this year BCS’ independent survey shows an increase in concern about the availability of design and build staff with an 11% rise, to 75%, of respondents believing there is an inadequate supply of skilled labour. The same independent BCS survey shows that 90% of those involved in the design and construction of data centres believe there is a dearth of both design and build personnel.

As the confusion regarding exam results and the subsequent issues with university places continues to test the education system, it is a growing concern for the future supply of resources skilled in the design and build of data centres.  It is then perhaps no surprise that for the second survey running, greater industry engagement with educators is ranked as the top factor to address this identified skills shortage. This is particularly important given the tremendous competition for suitably qualified STEM staff from a wave of different technology sectors across the wider economy. Early engagement with the industry at the educational level is needed to encourage the next generation of potential datacentre professionals through providing clear routes to jobs and career advancement that exist in many of the competing industries.

Better on the job training and improved or greater incentives for apprenticeships also ranked highly in the survey as  respondents acknowledged the positive impact that the education sector and businesses working in partnership can have in developing home-grown resources.  At BCS we believe that the expansion of apprenticeship places is vital to the success of the generation of UK based skills.  This year we had over 200 applicants for the apprentice and graduate scheme we operate in partnership with London Southbank University which provides funded places and, alongside studies, enables the apprentices to access every aspect of the BCS business.

From this year’s intake, Imogen Paton is enrolled on a Quantity Surveying Degree Apprenticeship at London Southbank University and will be sharing her time between studying there and getting some great practical experience with BCS over the next five years. Imogen said: “I am really looking forward to this opportunity to grow and work with both a great company and great university and can’t wait to get started!”

Many businesses might think that taking on an apprentice during the current pandemic will not bear fruit but that is not necessarily the case.  Yes, it can be harder and will require a little more care and attention but the right candidates will learn some invaluable skills during these strange times.

Ben Chappell, a BCS Apprentice Consultant from London Southbank University says he will “definitely take a new sense of confidence in working independently back to the office when the lockdown is over.”

“I’ve been balancing client tasks with Southbank University work successfully, which has given me assurance that my routine is productive. One of the lessons for my industry is that we now know that a significant amount of work can be done remotely if the circumstances require it. However, I am also very much aware of the importance of social interaction for both the office teams and client relations and I’m looking forward to getting back on site,” he said.

It is also worth remembering that the survey was undertaken at the beginning of the UK lockdown, before the length of the lockdown and subsequent travel restrictions could be fully understood.  Despite the timing, almost three-quarters of respondents believed that shortages amongst data centre operational staff was already making it increasingly difficult to run facilities well. It is now clear that the difficulties associated with international travel such as the lack of availability of flights and hotel rooms or the more recent focus on quarantine rules has made it even more difficult for the roving teams of design, build and maintenance engineers to do their jobs efficiently.  These teams are, of course, essential workers and not subject to the quarantine rules but travel, and life in general, is more difficult now, and as a result less productive.  This will mean that even more skilled engineers are required to support the existing infrastructure.

Meeting the demands for greater capacity was an issue before Covid-19 with 74% seeing higher labour costs, 55% using increased outsourcing and almost 50% seeing delays due to the shortage of available skills.  It is likely these numbers will be even higher next year. We should also take note of the likely impact of Brexit and any future immigration policy.  It is vital that any future policy recognises the importance of the data centre industry in the UK and supports it with favourable access for the skilled workers that will be needed in order to meet the existing demand. 

In conclusion, the demand for UK based data centres currently outstrips supply, smart working and automated processes, and a focus on education alongside investment and support from the Government, is required sooner rather than later to ensure the UK capitalises on this opportunity.

CEOs ‘need technology in their DNA’ to ensure success

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CEOs and executive leadership positions should be filled by people with technology career backgrounds, such as app or software development, if businesses are to be more successful, say the majority (69%) of business leaders in the UK.

Research conducted by VMware has found international recognition that elevating technology team members into leadership roles drives significant value for the entire organisation.

When identifying specific benefits, over one in four (42%) business leaders highlight improved efficiency across the whole organisation, a third (33%) recognise increased business performance and greater innovation potential, and more than a third (39%) better customer experiences.

Vanson Bourne, commissioned by VMware, interviewed 2,250 respondents in EMEA (including 450 from the UK) during March and April 2020. This consisted of 750 business decision makers, 750 IT decision makers and 750 app developers. All respondents were from organisations with at least 500 employees, across all private and public sectors, including, but not limited to IT, financial services, retail and wholesale, healthcare, education and government.

VMware says the findings sit against a backdrop of seismic disruption, where digital transformation – the way technology transforms or enhances business models – has been validated in helping leaders and their organisations adapt to fast-changing market dynamics, changing business models and employee mobilization.

During the pandemic, UK businesses highlight the benefits of modernised applications, for example, to enhance their performance and resilience. More than half (58% ) of respondents highlighted the role of modernised apps to enable employees to work remotely, and just under a third referenced their ability to continuously push updates in response to the changing landscape (31%), and ensure reliable uptime (35%). 

In fact, more than three quarters (81%) of app developers and technology leaders in the UK believe that without successfully modernising applications, organisations will not be able to deliver a best-in-class customer experience. This is echoed by the global executive community; more than 80% of whom believe that enhancing application portfolios will improve the customer experience, which is directly tied to revenue growth.

“Business leaders have never been at the helm of so much change, so those with an inherent knowledge of technology and an understanding of how applications can help them adapt to any market conditions and shape their future performance and resiliency have a real advantage. Indeed, three quarters of the world’s business leaders agree that a ‘technology inside’ leadership skillset will bring success,” said Ed Hoppitt, Director of Apps and Cloud Native Platforms VMware, EMEA. “From the tens of millions of people and students now working and educating from home, to banks being able to scale to provide significant revenue streams, to businesses and retailers looking at digital platform options almost overnight, this pandemic has driven a decade of digital transformation in a few months. 

“It is the ability to get these defining, business apps – that deliver information and services into the hands of users, where needed – that creates success and genuinely drives customer engagement.  Leadership with technology in its DNA combined with a software-enabled digital foundation to serve up these digital services is a winning combination.”

Ursula Dolton, CTO at British Heart Foundation, said: “Businesses risk missing a trick by not appointing C-suite execs with backgrounds in technology. It is no longer enough to simply invest in technologies, since their benefits to organisations go well beyond implementation. In order to get the most from these investments, it’s vital to deliver cultural change and strategic direction, a role best suited for leaders with an understanding of these platforms and the power to both respond to demand and enforce real change.” 

A competitive advantage, born out of the continuous development and delivery of new applications and services, is also reinforced by the findings – which reveal that high-performing companies in EMEA have a more efficient and effective development rate of applications. Two thirds (66%) of new applications make it through to production in high-performing companies***, compared to 41% within underperforming organisations, while 70% of application efforts make it to production in the planned timeframe in high-performing organisations, compared with just 41% in underperforming.

McAfee on cybersecurity for the ‘new normal’ while managing the skills gap

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Cybersecurity is now in the midst of an unprecedented challenge. While the scale, complexity and financial impact of data breaches and cyber attacks continue to increase, the pool of skilled professionals to fill security roles is dwindling.

According to research in March from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, approximately 653,000 (48%) businesses have a basic skills gap, which means that those in charge of cybersecurity at those organisations lack the confidence to carry out the tasks laid out in the Government-backed Cyber Essentials scheme and do not have external support to do so. 

In practice, this means that almost half of UK businesses are unable to tackle the cybersecurity basics, such as setting up firewalls, storing or transferring personal data and detecting and removing malware. A further 408,000 organisations have “more advanced skills gaps”, covering areas such as penetration testing and security architecture.

Being unable to recruit skilled talent is simply exacerbating this problem, with employers identifying 35% of their security vacancies in the last three years as “hard to fill”.

Security teams are now being tasked with greater responsibility than ever, including getting entire workforces mobilised to work from home efficiently and securely, while battling a changing threat landscape. In light of the challenges they face today, it is more important than ever to take an intelligent, cloud-native approach to endpoint security.

We spoke to Adam Philpott, EMEA president at McAfee, about ways of managing the skills gap without compromising on security…

What can be done to tackle the skills gap issue in cybersecurity?

“To tackle such a complex issue requires both “top-of-the-funnel” intervention and investment from government organisations, but also collaboration across the cybersecurity industry and concrete measures from companies themselves.

“We can try to bring talent in further down the line, for example training employees later in their careers, but ensuring we have more talent available in the first place is essential. That is why nationwide investments in training in the technology sector, such as the establishment of a new UK Cyber Security Council to provide a framework for cybersecurity qualifications, are crucial and instrumental to closing the widening skill gap.

“However, there’s much that individual businesses can do to tackle the issue at their level, including implementing initiatives (whether it’s in collaboration with others in the industry or on their own) to promote greater diversity and attract more talent. For example, at McAfee we are targeting talent from outside of IT and security for many roles – an approach that requires thoughtful support mechanisms for onboarding and ongoing development.”

How much of an impact is a lack of diversity having on the wider skills gap, and how can it be combatted?

“A lack of diversity in recruitment processes, often coming through unconscious bias, means that businesses are missing out on large parts of the talent spectrum. This leads to slower progress in tackling the technical skills gap currently facing the industry.

“Building diverse teams should be a no-brainer for businesses, as doing so has clear benefits – from boosting creativity to achieving greater financial success. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, as well as benefitting from a wider bank of perspectives and expertise to draw on. Above all, diversity in the workforce is attractive to new talent and leads to better problem solving as well as improved service for customers of all backgrounds and perspectives.

“When working to combat the skills gap, companies should aim to weave diversity into every single process, programme and initiative. In practice, this means constantly thinking about different ways to access a more diverse talent pool, such as implementing flexible working practices. Alongside this, it’s important that companies are addressing the problem in the recruitment and interview processes, to ensure that hiring is as fair as possible. For instance, if an organisation is looking to recruit a better balance of men and women, it could change the wording in job adverts to make them more gender neutral or ensure that there is at least one woman on every interview panel making a recruitment decision on a candidate.”

How can organisations ease the burden on stretched IT teams without compromising on security?

“The average IT department manages thousands of endpoints, from desktops to IoT devices and everything in-between. Unfortunately, many security solutions simply dump too much information on stretched security teams and rely on senior analysts to investigate threats. When the skills gap issue is factored in, this can lead to serious holes in an organisation’s security posture.

“During the last few months of Covid-19 and the shift towards remote working, many businesses have been forced to accelerate a process of digitization, which in turn gives rise to two dimensions of complexity. Firstly, the infrastructure complexity that comes with more devices being connected and more cloud services being consumed. All of this needs protecting within the security OpEx envelope.

Secondly, there’s the security complexity, where a fragmented (or “best of breed”) solution weakens an organisation’s overall security posture. Both of these complexities put an undue burden on talent, exacerbating the ongoing skills gap issue.

“Some businesses look to outsource their threat detection and analysis, but in essence this only shifts the need for experts from one business to another. Rather than take this approach, organisations need to invest in the right cloud-native tools that identify and contain threats, but also help to upskill more junior staff and lighten the load for employees.

“Integrated solutions monitor and collect activity data from endpoints that could point to a threat, providing the visibility and context needed for security personnel to act. By analysing the data to identify threat patterns, its AI-driven response capabilities can automatically remove or contain threats and notify analysts, while the forensics and analytics tools hunt for identified threats and suspicious activities.

“Automation plays a key role here, handling a high volume of low intellect threats, which frees staff up to focus on higher-value work. By trusting in automated investigation, organisations can reduce alert noise and set up processes which enable staff to do more with less. This is vital for the business to maintain a consistently strong security posture, while allowing human personnel to focus on tasks that do more than just keep the lights on.”

Mind the gap: Upskilling cyber security teams

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By Matt Cable, VP Solutions Architects & MD Europe, Certes Networks, is of interest at all?

At the end of 2019, it was reported that the number of unfilled global IT security positions had reached over four million professionals, up from almost three million at the same time the previous year. This included 561,000 in North America and a staggering 2.6 million in APAC. The cyber security industry clearly has some gaps to fill.

But it’s not just the number of open positions that presents an issue. Research also shows that nearly half of firms are unable to carry out the basic tasks outlined in the UK government’s Cyber Essentials scheme, such as setting up firewalls, storing data and removing malware. Although this figure has improved since 2018, it is still far too high and is a growing concern. 

To compound matters, the disruption of COVID-19 this year has triggered a larger volume of attack vectors, with more employees working from home without sufficient security protocols and cyber attackers willingly using this to their advantage.

Evidentially, ensuring cyber security employees and teams have the right skills to keep both their organisations and their data safe, is essential. However, as Matt Cable, VP Solutions Architects & MD Europe, Certes Networks explains, as well as ensuring they have access to the right skills, organisations should also embrace a mindset of continuously identifying – and closing – gaps in their cyber security posture to ensure the organisation is as secure as it can be.

Infrastructure security versus infrastructure connectivity

There is a big misconception within cyber security teams that all members of the team can mitigate any cyber threat that comes their way. However, in practice this often isn’t the case. There is repeatedly a lack of clarity between infrastructure security and infrastructure connectivity, with organisations assuming that because a member of the team is skilled in one area, they will automatically be skilled in the other. 

What organisations are currently missing is a person, or team, within the company whose sole responsibility is looking at the security posture; not just at a high level, but also taking a deep dive into the infrastructure and identifying gaps, pain points and vulnerabilities. By assessing whether teams are truly focusing their efforts in the right places, tangible, outcomes-driven changes can really be made and organisations can then work towards understanding if they currently do possess the right skills to address the challenges. 

This task should be a group effort: the entire IT and security team should be encouraged to look at the current situation and really analyse how secure the organisation truly is. Where is the majority of the team’s time being devoted? How could certain aspects of cyber security be better understood? Is the current team able to carry out penetration testing or patch management? Or, as an alternative to hiring a new member of the team, the CISO could consider sourcing a security partner who can provide these services, recognising that the skill sets cannot be developed within the organisation itself, and instead utilising external expertise.

It’s not what you know, it’s what you don’t know

The pace of change in cyber security means that organisations must accept they will not always be positioned to combat every single attack. Whilst on one day an organisation might consider its network to be secure, a new ransomware attack or the introduction of a new man-in-the-middle threat could quickly highlight a previously unknown vulnerability. Quite often, an organisation will not have known that it had vulnerabilities until it was too late. 

By understanding that there will always be a new gap to fill and continuously assessing if the team has the right skills – either in-house or outsourced – to combat it, organisations can become much better prepared. If a CISO simply accepts the current secure state of its security posture as static and untouchable, the organisation will open itself up as a target of many forms of new attack vectors. Instead, accepting that cyber security is constantly changing and therefore questioning and testing each component of the security architecture on a regular basis means that security teams – with the help of security partners – will never be caught off guard. 

Maintaining the right cyber security posture requires not just the right skills, but a mindset of constant innovation and assessment. Now, more than ever, organisations need to stay vigilant and identify the gaps that could cause devastating repercussions if left unfilled. 

Most Urgent CISO Skills 2020: Reporting, Avoiding Burnout, More collaboration

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By Jake Olcott, VP of Government Affairs, BitSight

Since the creation of the first CISO role about 25 years ago, the job has changed dramatically. What was once an uncommon position has quickly become standard, with the majority of companies including a cybersecurity-specific role in their C-suites.

As cybersecurity has gone from niche issue to mainstream business concern, the CISO has become more important. And, although many CISOs come from purely technical backgrounds, new challenges have forced them to take on the responsibilities of business leaders.

As a result, the most important CISO skills are not necessarily technical in nature. Business skills like collaboration, communication, and management are just as critical for CISOs as they aim to reduce cyber risk in an increasingly fraught threat landscape.

Here are some of the most important CISO skills for 2020:

Collaboration

Cybersecurity is collaborative. The most efficient team of SOC analysts in the world can’t prevent incidents if employees in other parts of the organisation aren’t trained on good security hygiene. CISOs can’t give their teams the resources they need if their Board and fellow executives don’t understand security challenges and allocate the necessary budget.

Shockingly, however, only 22% of companies say their organisation’s security function is integrated with other business functions.

CISOs in 2020 and beyond will need to build collaboration skills in order to act as ambassadors for the cybersecurity program. Communicating security priorities to other departments and across lines of business or distributed workplaces is a challenge but gaining their buy-in is essential to maintaining effective security.

Avoiding burnout

CISOs don’t have it easy. 91% of CISOs say they suffer from moderate or high stress, and 27.5% of CISOs say stress affects their ability to do their jobs. CISO burnout is real, and it can create new security risks as well as personal challenges.

Strange as it might seem, one of the most important skills for CISOs is making sure they don’t become victims of burnout themselves.

One aspect of avoiding burnout is stress management. Exercise, meditation, and other stress-reducing activities can be very helpful. However, personal stress management isn’t going to be enough to stem the burnout crisis. CISOs can also consider advocating for policies in their organisations that reduce the likelihood of job stress, such as workplace wellness programs or limiting after-hours email notifications.

Increasing employee engagement 

CISOs aren’t the only cybersecurity professionals at risk of burning out. 65% of SOC professionals say stress has caused them to think about quitting.

As the cybersecurity skills shortage drags on, the most effective CISOs will be the ones who make sure their best employees stay on long-term.

With a 0% industry unemployment rate, the market pressure is on the employer to keep employees happy, not the other way around. That means security leaders must hone their people management skills and keep a finger on the pulse of employee engagement.

There are many techniques for increasing employee engagement, and each CISO will need to figure out what will work best in their own organisation. Some effective techniques include:

  • Increasing the frequency of employee/manager meetings
  • Giving employees several avenues for giving feedback, including anonymous suggestions
  • Adding more social time to the schedule, or hosting company-sponsored parties or group activities
  • Recognising high-performers with awards and prizes

Communication and reporting 

When reporting to the Board, other executives, or even third-party auditors, CISOs need to make sure they get the messaging right.

One of the most important CISO skills is being able to translate complicated technical concepts into easy-to-understand language. When others can actually wrap their minds around the challenges of the cybersecurity program, they’re more likely to buy in and provide support.

On a basic level, CISOs can improve their communications by avoiding information-dumping and scare tactics. Turning in a 100-page report full of metrics the Board doesn’t understand isn’t useful. Similarly, warning of worst-case-scenarios can backfire when it creates a reactionary approach to security.

Further, CISOs should take a risk-based approach to cybersecurity reporting. In practice, that means making sure KPIs contain context about the actual risk posed to the organisation. In addition, CISOs should understand each data point’s impact on larger business KPIs and objectives.

Following a risk-based approach to reporting can help CISOs demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs, advocate for new initiatives, and improve overall security.

Government strives to increase diversity in cyber security

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The third round of funding through the Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund (CSIIF) has been launched by Cyber Security Minister Nigel Adams.

The Fund aims to increase the number and diversity of people entering the cyber security profession, with training providers able to bid for up to £100,000 to work with employers and design training programmes which retrain a diverse range of individuals for a career in cyber security.

Alongside this Adams has also announced that after a competitive grant competition, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has been appointed the lead organisation in charge of designing and delivering the new UK Cyber Security Council, alongside a wider alliance of cyber security professional organisations.

The UK Cyber Security Council will aim to coordinate the existing professional landscape, to make cyber security a well structured and easy to navigate profession which represents, supports and drives excellence going forward.

Cyber Security Minister Nigel Adams said: “The UK is a world leader in tackling cyber attacks but we must make sure we continue to develop the talent we need to protect the public and business online.

“This latest round of funding demonstrates our commitment to make sure the UK’s cyber security industry has a skilled and diverse workforce and, through our new Cyber Security Council, there are clear paths for those wishing to join the profession.”

Simon Edwards, IET Director of Governance and External Engagement, said: “It’s fundamental that cyber security is seen as a nationally recognised and established profession with clear career pathways. The IET, alongside an alliance of professional cyber security organisations, will bring together the credibility and knowledge across a wide range of disciplines to further strengthen the UK’s leadership position in cyber security innovation and resilience on the global stage. With cyber skills shortages already emerging at every level, we are committed to working with the Government and the National Cyber Security Centre on delivering the rapid, yet capable development of specialist cyber skills to meet the growing needs of the industry, manage risk and secure the next generation of talent.”

Jacqueline de Rojas, President, techUK said: “As businesses become ever more reliant on digital tools, the need for a skilled and professional cyber workforce in the UK has increased. Yet the Government’s National Cyber Security Skills Strategy found that more than half of all businesses and charities in the UK have a basic cyber security skills gap.

“Increasing diversity in the sector is one way in which we can seek to plug the growing cyber skills gap, and that is why initiatives like the Immediate Impact Fund are so important. Coupled with the creation of a new Cyber Security Council that will create clearer pathways for people entering the sector, these announcements will go a long way to ensuring that we create and nurture our cyber professionals and continue making the UK the safest place to be online.”

The deadline for applications to the Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund (CSIIF) is the 27th September.

Twelve initiatives have already received support from CSIIF with more than 400 people benefitting from training opportunities.

Skills shortage and 5G fears at European data centres

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Continuing unprecedented demand for new datacentres, fears around the shortage of skilled professionals, concerns about the future disruption of 5G, and the limited impact of Brexit are some of the key findings from the latest industry survey from Business Critical Solutions (BCS).

The Summer Report, now in its 10th year, is undertaken by independent research house IX Consulting, who capture the views of over 300 senior datacentre professionals across Europe, including owners, operators, developers, consultants and end users. It is commissioned by BCS, a specialist services provider to the digital infrastructure industry. 

The report highlights the rising demand for datacentres with almost two thirds of users exceeding 80% of their capacity today, 70% having increased capacity in the last six months and almost 60% planning increase capacity next year.

This demand is currently being driven by cloud computing with over three quarters of respondents identifying 5G and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as disruptors for the future.

With industry predictions that edge computing will have 10 times the impact of cloud computing in the future, half of respondents believe it will be the biggest driver of new datacentres.

However, the survey found that the market remains confident that supply can be maintained, with over 90% of developers stating they have expanded their datacentre portfolio in the last six months.

With regards to supply, there are concerns that a shortage of sufficiently qualified professionals at the design and build stages will cause a bottle neck, with 64% of datacentre users and experts believing there is a lack of skilled design resource in the UK. AI and Machine Learning may help to mitigate these issues with nearly two thirds of respondents confident that datacentres will utilise these to simplify operations and drive efficiency.

The political uncertainty around Brexit continues to impact the sector with 78% of respondents believing that it will create an increase in demand for UK-based datacentres. However, the overall feeling was that the fundamentals underpinning the demand for datacentre space, such as the continued proliferation of technology-led services, outweighs these concerns and the European datacentre market will overcome any difficulties that occur.

Commenting on the report, James Hart, CEO at BCS, said: “As always this report makes for fascinating reading and I was encouraged by the overwhelming positive sentiment to forecast growth and the limited impact of Brexit. The fact that half of our respondents believe that edge computing will be the biggest driver of new datacentres tallies with our own convictions. We believe that the edge of the network will continue to be at the epicentre of innovation in the datacentre space and we are seeing a strong increase in the number of clients coming to us for help with the development of their edge strategy and rollouts.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

Image by Jorge Guillen from Pixabay

Digital skills shortages ‘costing UK £63bn a year’

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A lack of technical expertise has fuelled skills shortages across the UK for the last two decades.

That is according to comparative analysis of the professional jobs market by The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

A 1999 report from University College London said almost half (47%) of all ‘skill-shortage vacancies’ that year could be attributed to a lack of technical expertise.

For ‘associate professional and technical’ roles, the need for ‘advanced IT’ skills was responsible for 31% of vacancies, while a lack of ‘other technical and practical skills’ were responsible for a further 49% of all open roles.

A separate report published the same year by Computer Weekly revealed that C++ developers were the most in-demand professionals with Java the second most sought-after skill in the IT recruitment market.

Now, research from The Edge Foundation suggests that around half of all employers (51%) have been forced to leave a role open because there are no suitable candidates available, and that tech job vacancies are costing the UK economy £63 billion a year.

LinkedIn data indicates that cloud and distributed computing is the most valued skill among employers, with user interface design, SEO/SEM marketing and mobile development also featuring in the top 10.

Commenting on the analysis, Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, said: “While the specific skills that employers are seeking have changed dramatically over the past two decades, the fact that talent gaps continue to be aligned with technical competencies suggests that we need to do more to boost Britain’s digital capabilities.

“Our members have long reported shortages of talent across the IT and digital fields. For this reason, it is crucial that we ensure that we retain access to the STEM professionals that businesses need in the short term – through maintaining access to global talent and retaining our flexible labour market.

“However, perhaps more importantly, we must pipeline the calibre and volume of skills we need for the future so that we break free from this perpetual skills shortage. As this data indicates, for the past 20 years we have been playing catch-up – and we must break the cycle if individual businesses, and the wider UK economy, are to fulfil their full potential.”

Universities invited to apply for NCSC certification

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Universities across the UK now have a further opportunity for their cyber-security related degrees to gain certification as part of the National Cyber Security Strategy.

After a rigorous process, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ – has already certified 23 Master’s degrees, three Integrated Master’s and three Bachelor’s degrees from 19 universities over the last four years.

With applications now open the NCSC is looking for fresh candidates to increase these figures, with degree apprenticeships now also eligible.

NCSC-certified degrees are designed to help universities attract high quality students from around the world, employers to recruit skilled staff and prospective students to make better informed choices when looking for a highly valued qualification.

The degree certification programme is part of a range of programmes which the NCSC and its government partners have initiated across UK academia designed to address the knowledge, skills and capability requirements for cyber security research and education.

The other programmes include Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research (ACEs-CSR), Academic Research Institutes, and Centres for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Skills and Growth, said: “I’m really pleased that we’ve now launched a programme for certifying degree apprenticeships.  This will be a valuable addition to our certified undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes.

“Degree Apprenticeships offer a flexible option for both students and employers, as we have seen from our own Degree Apprenticeship programme.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing some more successful applications, and strongly encourage any interested universities to get in touch and find out more.”

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said: “The fast-paced world of technology is constantly evolving and it is vital that young people have the option to study high quality courses in cutting edge industries, such as cyber security.

“We want to maximise choice and flexibility for people wanting to study in higher education, whether that’s as part of a traditional course or a degree apprenticeship.

“Not only will these certified degrees provide a benchmark for future cyber security professionals, but also help to ensure they are ready for the world of work and prepare them for an exciting career.”

Institutions who are interested in applying for certification can find out further detail via https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/information/ncsc-degree-certification-call-new-applicants-0

UK police team up with Cisco for cyber security training

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Cisco Networking Academy has announced plans to team up with the UK’s police force in a bid to make the country’s cyber space a safer environment.

The initiative will see officers all over the country trained in best cyber security practices and has been described as a ‘pivotal partnership’.

As well as sharing its expertise in the field of cyber security, Cisco will also be running scaleable and accessible programmes for police officers, of which the company revealed there are at least 12,000 across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently maintaining the safety and security of online and offline worlds. 

“We are very pleased to be working with Cisco Networking Academy. By joining the programme, forces can access training designed to raise awareness and increase their understanding of cybercrime and cyber threats, while also gaining insights into the procedures used to defend networks,” said Andy Beet, National Police Chiefs’ Council, Data Communications Group, Futures Lead. 

“It’s important for all police officers to understand cybersecurity as fully as possible; by doing so they can develop their knowledge in this increasingly important area, improving security in both their professional and personal lives,” Beet concluded.

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