From education to employment

Skills leader warns widening cyber security talent gaps pose risk to UK’s economic security

laptop and data in the background

The head of one of the UK’s largest skills bootcamp operators has warned the growing skills gap in cyber security will further widen if changes aren’t made to meet demands, posing significant risks from a cyber security perspective.

Mo Isap, CEO of Manchester-based IN4 Group, which leads the CyberFirst initiative in the North West backed by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre’s (part of GCHQ), has said that the increase in skills gaps across businesses will create great consequences to the prosperity of the UK and the economic security of many of the country’s most disadvantaged communities.  

According to the Government’s latest findings (24 July) into the UK cyber security labour market, 50% of all UK businesses have a basic cyber security skills gap, while 33% have an advanced cyber security skills gap. Only 17% of the cyber sector workforce is female (down from 22% last year, but similar to 2021 and 2020) and only 14% of senior roles are filled by women, indicating more work is needed to attract and retain women in the sector.

The report, released by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Viscount Camrose, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for AI and Intellectual Property), showed a 30% increase in cyber security job postings in the last year, up to 160,035, with 37% of vacancies reported as hard-to-fill (down from 44% in 2022, but same as 2021).

It estimated a shortfall of 11,200 people to meet the demand of the cyber workforce, down from 14,100 last year, largely due to slower growth of the sector.

Isap, whose IN4 Group has fast tracked over 2,000 people into technology jobs in the past three years, said the results are a damning indication of the UK’s lack of investment in the training required to keep up with the pace of change in cyber innovation.

“Increasing the UK’s cyber security skills at every level and ensuring that we have a continuing pipeline of talent is of utmost importance to ensuring the UK is seen as an investable, and secure, country for business,” he said.

“These figures starkly demonstrate that the speed of training is falling far behind business needs. 

“We know things cannot change overnight, but we must be realistic and increase not only our training mechanisms, but our outreach to suit that pace of change and position the sector as an attractive career path. Showcasing the career opportunities available to young people is a critical part of this, but this begins at ground level with disadvantaged communities to show that everyone has the access to progress. On the most basic level, we need much more investment to provide the devices, connectivity and teaching that communities need to ignite this interest.

“The Government’s investment into skills bootcamps, paralleled with accelerated apprenticeships, has been an innovative and disruptive move in the right direction however we need to do more for longer. The greatest risk is that like many previous initiatives they get culled prematurely. We need consistency for longer, to create incentives which are immunised from politics.”

The CyberFirst Schools and Colleges initiative aims to equip young people with the digital skills needed to pursue a career path in the sector. In 2022, 1562 secondary school students from across the North West enrolled, 95% of which were female with 65% from an ethnic minority background. Enabling individuals from some of the most underrepresented and deprived areas of the region to access training, the North West initiative led by IN4 Group, has created £1.6 million of social impact in less than 12 months. The Group’s other skills work has delivered over £14m in social impact.

Isap continued,

“The main challenge for many people, especially the unemployed or career-changers, is the lack of understanding of the career pathways into tech and their lack of confidence in the sector. We need Government, business, academia and local communities to work together in order to showcase the UK as a leader in technology and help those open to new careers see the sector as a path they can follow.”

“We cannot afford to be left behind in an industry as important as cyber security. Simply put, if we don’t fill these roles, we are left open without armour.”

The Government reported that through the £2.6 billion National Cyber Strategy, it is working to increase the number and diversity of skilled people in the cyber security profession. This includes encouraging young people to develop their cyber and tech skills, and take subjects such as computer science which help develop the skills needed for cyber and tech careers.

IN4 Group works closely with industry-leading partners including Amazon, IBM, BAE Systems, KPMG UK and BT to understand and address digital skills shortages and has significant expertise in the needs of tech-giants. It aims to help more than 200,000 young women pursue careers in STEM in the North West over the next 10 years.

Related Articles