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Business leader inspires next generation of cyber defenders for nation’s data capital

Business leader inspires next generation of cyber defenders for nation’s data capital

With the widely reported hacks from Russia in the 2016 US election, the increase in European ransomware attacks and the government reporting over 180 Advanced Persistent Threats (APGS) on national infrastructure every month, the need for digital security has never been greater.

With over 8,500 digital technology companies, 70,000 people employed in the sector, the UK’s only independent internet exchange outside of London, and home to data-heavy organisations such as EMIS Health, TPP and NHS Digital, Leeds City Region is fast becoming the nation’s data capital. But as we move from the age of the Internet of Things into the age of the Internet of Everything this accolade also brings with it a host of vulnerabilities and challenges, not just for digital but across every sector.

In October 2016 the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) annual Labour Market Analysis revealed that the City Region’s information technology (IT) sector is forecast to grow at four times the rate of the overall economy at 15%, or around 4,000 jobs. However, the same report revealed that the number of apprenticeship starts in Information and Communication Technology has fallen by 1,300 or 68% and only 3% of Higher Education qualifiers were in Computer Science for 2014/2015. Similarly, research from the Centre for Cyber Safety and Education indicates that only 12% of the UK’s cyber security workforce is under 35.

Recognising the future skills deficit, cyber security expert Gary Hibberd has become an Enterprise Adviser with the LEP to inspire the next generation of cyber defenders for Leeds City Region. Working with Wakefield school Castleford Academy Gary has delivered a programme of activity between digital employers and the school’s students to give practical examples of employment in cyber security. 

Activities have included one-to-one interview workshops, training teachers in exciting ways they can bring digital security to life and challenging young people’s assumptions of popular social media, like Snapchat, and the ways they retain personal data.

Gary Hibberd, Managing Director of Agenci and Enterprise Adviser said: “We’re becoming increasingly reliant on technology and the internet and with that comes a degree of risk. The first computer virus was created in 1986. Now there’s between 50,000-80,000 born each day.

“The industry is already starting to become increasingly specialised as the number and style of attacks continues to grow and evolve. We are now seeing roles, not just in cyber security, but in highly specialised facets such as cyber criminology and cyber psychology. It’s crucial that we educate our City Region’s young people; both in the dangers of living online but also in the fantastic career opportunities cyber and information security offers.

“As an Enterprise Adviser I’m able to influence the curriculum by helping Castleford to develop a business-led careers strategy whilst also raising awareness of a vitally important sector that could provide a wealth of options for our future employees.”

Kersten England, Digital lead for the LEP and Chief Executive of Bradford Council said: “We have an ambition to build upon our existing, world class assets to become a globally recognised digital city region and to do so we must ensure we have the talent pipeline to meet demand. A deficit of 1.8 million information security workers currently exists across the globe having risen by 20% from 2015 and we anticipate that this will continue to rise further still.

“It’s fantastic to see that, through initiatives like the Enterprise Adviser Network and with courses such as the GCHQ-accredited MSc in Cyber Security at the University of York, work is already underway to ensure that our City Region has the skilled and advanced workforce to meet our aspirations to become a smart city region.”

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the LEP said: “Connecting great education to business is just a fundamental element of our employment and skills plan for Leeds City Region.

“Alongside the Enterprise Adviser Network, we’re investing over £79 million in FE infrastructure, including Shipley College in Saltaire, Quarry Hill in Leeds and Pioneer House in Dewsbury, to ensure our young people have access to world-class, inspiring facilities; our #techgoals initiative has already reached over 8,000 pupils by upskilling their teachers on digital skills and careers; and we’re working in partnership with all five West Yorkshire colleges to set out ‘delivery agreements’, which will outline how our FE institutions will better respond to the economic priorities of the City Region.

“Our recent labour market information report revealed that jobs in information technology (IT) alone are predicted to grow four times faster than the overall economy in the next 10 years. By providing a platform for businesses to access schools we can inspire the next generation of digital workers and continue to transform our economy-of-old from one of industry to one that’s unquestionably and digitally industrious.”

To find out more about becoming an Enterprise Adviser visit the-lep.com/enterpriseadvisers.

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