Plugging the Cyber Skills Gap

January 14, 2022
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Plugging the Cyber Skills Gap

It is projected that half of our jobs will be replaced by AI, robots, and technology by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum.

On top of this, approximately 1 million people were made redundant during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and current unemployment levels are still higher than at the start of 2020.

Finally, it is estimated that the cyber industry will need an additional 3.5 million qualified professionals by 2023, so it’s clear to see we’re approaching a potential employment crisis. The pandemic has changed the world of work with far-reaching and potentially permanent effects, crippling certain industries which may never fully recover. We have a growing amount of adults in the UK who need to reskill, and an industry crying out for new, diverse talent.

That’s why I founded CAPSLOCK alongside Lorna Armitage and Jonathan Slater. Drawing from our professional backgrounds in cyber security consultation, education and recruitment, we saw the opportunity to help adults in need of a career change transition into the world of cyber security.

CAPSLOCK Co-founders
L-R: Me, Jonathan and Lorna

With our award-winning cyber bootcamps, we re-skill adults into cyber security professionals entirely online, within 6 months, and with no up-front costs. We deliver cyber education via a rigorous curriculum that we built in collaboration with some of the UK’s largest cyber employers, such as Dell and BT. This ensures that our learners are graduating with the skills and experience that UK cyber employers need, rather than just theoretical knowledge from a textbook.

The course itself covers a broad spectrum of cyber fundamentals, including business understanding, cyber ethics and culture, governance, risk and compliance, offensive and defensive security, and cloud security. The classes revolve around team-based learning and problem-based learning, meaning learners work towards solving real-world cyber security problems as part of a team. This simulates a realistic working environment, and creates an immersive learning experience which encourages engagement, exploration, innovation, and confidence.

Cyber Security Needs More Diversity

As with many industries, cyber suffers from a stark lack of diversity in many forms, including gender, ethnicity, and neurodiversity. Starting to remedy this problem would help to close the cyber skills gap, which is why increasing the diversity of the cyber workforce is high on our list of priorities. We enrolled 85 learners onto our inaugural cohorts in February and March 2021. Of these, 32% were women and 35% were from ethnic minority backgrounds: more than double the average representation on a university degree in a similar subject. And in terms of the CAPSLOCK team itself, 57% of our staff members are female, which is pretty uncommon for a cyber security business.

The way I see it, the more our cyber workforce reflects the diversity of our society, the better our cyber solutions will be. At CAPSLOCK, we are committed to removing the traditional barriers which have prevented people of all genders, ethnic backgrounds and walks of life from entering the cyber industry. There are huge amounts of untapped talent in these demographics, and we want to help people access the education and support that will unlock their potential.

Removing the financial barriers to cyber education has always been one of CAPSLOCK’s main priorities

Making Cyber Education Affordable

One of the biggest ways in which we make our bootcamps more accessible is by removing the financial barriers to retraining.

Rather than charging learners a tuition fee, which would be prohibitively expensive for many, our learners have the option to attend the full time (16 week) or part time (26 week) course and pay nothing up-front. Instead, learners are required to pay back a percentage of their income after completing the course, but only if they land a job with a good salary.

This financial model is known as an Income Share Agreement and it opens the door to people who need to re-skill but can’t afford huge up-front fees or traditional loan debt. Of our first cohort of 85 students, 77 opted for an Income Share Agreement, meaning we deferred over £700,000 in tuition fees so learners could join with no up-front costs. This means our courses are accessible to all, regardless of their current financial circumstances.

The underlying point here is that we’re simply not going to plug the cyber skills gap by letting history repeat itself. We have to bring more diverse voices into the industry and shake up traditional models of education. We can do this by offering more accessible ways to enter the industry, allowing UK adults to re-skill in an efficient, thorough, and affordable manner.

That is what CAPSLOCK is all about. Our graduates have been hired by the BBC, Hargreaves Lansdown, NCC Group, Dyson, ITV, HSBC, and many others. They are seeing an average salary increase of 54%. Our bootcamps have helped a former professional dancer become a SOC analyst, a former composer become a Cyber Training & Awareness Officer, and a former supermarket assistant become a vulnerability analyst, among others.

I strongly believe that CAPSLOCK learners are the future of cyber security, and part of the solution to the UK’s cyber skills gap.

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