teenager on a computer, gaming, cyber security

New virtual cyber school gives teens chance to try out as cyber security agents

teenager on a computer, gaming, cyber security

Thousands of young people are being offered the chance to join a virtual cyber security school as part of plans to make sure the country develops the next generation of professional cyber defenders.

At a time when schools remain closed to most children, the online initiative aims to inspire future talent to work in the cyber security sector and give students a variety of extracurricular activities to do from the safety of their homes.

Teens can learn how to crack codes, fix security flaws and dissect criminals’ digital trails while progressing through the game as a cyber agent. This will help them develop important skills needed for future jobs, particularly in cyber security.

The school provides free weekly webinars run by industry experts teaching fundamental security disciplines such as digital forensics, cryptography and operating systems.

Speaking about the initiative, Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said, "This new initiative will give teenagers something fun and educational to do from home and provide them with a glimpse into the life of a cyber security professional."

"We have a world-leading cyber sector which plays a crucial role protecting the country and our digital economy, so it is absolutely vital we continue to inspire the next generation of tech talent to help maintain the UK’s strong position."

The move comes as the government announces a number of other online training courses to give UK school pupils the opportunity to learn and develop cyber security skills, including the launch of the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) hugely popular CyberFirst summer courses. The courses are moving online this year to help more than a thousand 14 to 17-year-olds develop important cyber skills from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Enrolled students will learn how to code and carry out cybersecurity operations in an instructor-led virtual classroom to help guide the students through the programme and build a sense of camaraderie within each cohort.

The National Crime Agency and Cyber Security Challenge UK will also this week announce teenagers can access their online cyber skills platform CyberLand for free during the coming months. In the game designed to teach teenagers the fundamentals of cyber security, players protect the virtual city ‘CyberLand’ from cyber attacks while learning key skills.

Adding his thoughts, Computer science teacher & EdTech evangelist Mark Martin said, "This is a great initiative to encourage young people to consider future careers in cyber security and see that they can have a tech job keeping people safe online."

"The virtual cyber school will help students learn valuable skills needed to work in the industry in a fun and entertaining way."

"I encourage teachers to share these programmes with their students as a productive activity to do in their spare time from home."




Children lose interest in tech in late teens, finds survey

children learning to use computer with parent
Children lose interest in careers in technology as they reach their late teenage years, according to a survey from Nominet and Parent Zone.

The study found that 77% of children aged 11 to 12 are more likely to be inspired by a career in IT, as opposed to 63% of 17 to 18 year olds.

Children aged 11 to 18 were found to be most interested in development careers, with almost a quarter stating they wanted to be a games developer. 13% said they wanted a career in apps development and 12.6% said they aspired to be a web developer.

Only a quarter of girls claimed they wanted to work in an IT department, compared to 43% of boys. However, 12.3% of girls said they would like a career in games development and 11.5% said they wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Vicki Shotbolt, CEO of Parent Zone, said children, particularly young women, can be put off of careers in technology if their parents advise them otherwise: “It’s easy for parents to slip into the trap of being negative about technology, but it’s important they try to see it through their children’s eyes and remember that technology is likely to feature in their careers when they leave school.

"There are lots of resources available to parents when it comes to cultivating their children’s interests in IT, so they should know that help is available if they need it.”

The majority of girls aged between 11 and 18 said they wanted a career in fashion design (13%). The top career for boys in this age group was games development (36.5%).

Shotbolt added: “Young women are strongly influenced by their school years, what they learn and the role models they look up to. These influences can clearly make a difference to the choices they make later in life, so it’s paramount we do all we can now to ensure the success of our future IT workforce.”

Russell Haworth, CEO of Nominet, said a collaborated effort between the IT industry and the education sector could help to ensure more young people are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to pursue a technology career.

Haworth said: “We’re putting the future of our digital economy at risk if we recruit from only half of the talent pool and fail to encourage more girls into IT. It appears that sustained collaboration between schools and the IT industry is what’s required to ignite girls’ interest and to develop their skills.”