From education to employment

Hugh Baird College ‘CyberHub’ launched to train the next generation of cybersecurity experts

The first CyberHub `Security Operations Centre’ (SOC) in the North-West is being launched at Hugh Baird College (@hughbaird), Merseyside today (24 February),to provide talented young people with the advanced digital skills they need to become Cyber Security and Cloud experts.

This pioneering, national initiative is being spearheaded by the charity, The CyberHub Trust, working in partnership with the college and Cyber Security specialists The BIT Group. The charity is supported by the world’s leading Cloud supplier Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is advised by both the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), of which the Trust is a `CyberFirst Associate’.

This is the second CyberHub to be launched in the country, with a CyberHub SOC already operational in London and another CyberHub due to open in Birmingham this Spring. There are plans in place to open a network of CyberHub SOCs in FE Colleges & Institutes of Technology (IoTs) across the country in the next few years, to address the huge Cyber & Cloud `Skills Gap’ facing the UK. 

Each CyberHub SOC contains cutting-edge technology, funded by AWS, with workstations, networks, firewalls and proprietary Cyber Security software, as well as visual Cyber Threat Assessment technology. These SOCs then become venues where students can learn and gain practical experience as Cyber Security Threat-hunters, analysts and various other roles in the `real world’. Students will work under the guidance and oversight of trained & experienced Cyber Security professionals.

From March, students from the age of 16 will be able to study for cyber-related qualifications, including apprenticeships, through the Hugh Baird College, being trained and working in a real-life, high security environment, helping to prevent genuine cyber-crime and implement cyber-security systems for real clients.

Importantly, the CyberHub will be embedded within its local community. It will offer training and workshops to schoolchildren, parents and people looking to re-train and upskill, with a range of partners. Local employers will be able to access Cyber Security services through the Hugh Baird College CyberHub SOC (which is connected virtually to a national SOC and a network of analysts and technicians around the country, thus providing the highest standards of Cyber Security support). This could range from Penetration Testing (when developing new websites, for example), Cyber Essentials accreditation and prevention of, or responses to, incidences of hacking.

Each CyberHub is run by an approved, qualified and experienced specialist, who will also oversee delivery of training and apprenticeships. The BIT Group has been contracted to deliver the first three CyberHub SOCs (Hugh Baird College in Merseyside, Barking & Dagenham College in London and the Birmingham Metropolitan College).  

Michael Klonowski, CEO of The CyberHub Trust, says:

“The digital landscape is expanding exponentially and as a result, cybercrime and the need for cyber security solutions is also growing, meaning there are some incredibly exciting career opportunities on offer.  

“The pioneering and unique CyberHub initiative brings together educators, charities, employers and digital experts.

“We aim to help tackle major skills gaps in this growing sector, while putting the valuable and advanced digital skills of many talented young people to positive and important use. We are also working to address a generation of older candidates who wish to re-skill, for example those whose careers were impacted by COVID, or military personnel re-entering `civil society’.

“We are incredibly excited to launch the first CyberHub Security Operations Centre in the North West at Hugh Baird College. We look forward to further openings at colleges around the country in the coming months and nurturing the next generation of much-needed cybersecurity experts.”

In addition to the Cyber Security & Cloud courses and apprenticeships that will be offered, additional `free’ courses will be made available, including AWS educate & Academy (a badged training programme), as well as a range of community-focused initiatives that will be run from the CyberHub, benefiting the local area.  

This will include:

  1. In-Work Cyber Security Training Programmes (post-COVID retraining programmes for those wanting to re/upskill)
  2. Re-skilling programmes for military personnel returning to civilian life 
  3. Presentations to local schoolchildren and their parents focusing on internet safety and ethical behaviour
  4. Careers information, particularly to help encourage girls into technology careers
  5. Support for the NCSC Cyber Girls competition, including hosting competition events
  6. Programmes designed to work with `at risk’ young people, who are appropriately vetted and referred by the NCA and the Police (to encourage those who might otherwise embark on hacking or potentially criminal cyber activity, to put their talents and skills to more positive, productive use and build careers in Cyber Security)

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, more business and social interactions are taking place online, which has resulted in an exponential growth in cyber-crime. Almost every UK business surveyed by Interpol has had a least one security breach in the last 12 months – with 90% noting that the increase in attacks were related to employees working from home as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

Higher-level technical skills are increasingly needed within the digital industry, with many exciting Cyber Security, Cloud and related digital job opportunities on offer.

Rachael Hennigan, Principal and Chief Executive of Hugh Baird College, said:

“Our partnership with CyberHub Trust further enhances the College’s aim to provide the highest quality experience for our students. Having the Security Operations Centre on campus and readily available to our students will give them immediate access to the latest technology available on the market.

“Through our recent stakeholder meetings with the region’s digital sector, Cyber Security has been highlighted several times as a skill that employers are looking for from the workforce of the future.

“We are thrilled to be working with the CyberHub Trust and their partners to launch this new facility. It will give our students and community the opportunity to progress into in-demand jobs within a growing digital industry.

Michael Dieroff, CEO of The Bit Group, said:

“The BIT GROUP is extremely proud to be chosen as an official Service Delivery partner to The CyberHub Trust. This is a great opportunity for the group to play a key role in offering real social impact at a national level and support The CyberHub Trust’s direction to build a network of community-focused Security Operations Centres across the UK, including Liverpool.

“With closely aligned values, we are excited to be part of the CyberHub Trust and Hugh Baird College’s journey. We too are in the business of supporting local communities and organisations with cost-effective cyber security and training that leads the way to open up the doors to diversity in Cyber Security.”

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