Cyber Security Challenge at Sophos

Cyber security talent not easy to spot employers say

Recruiters are struggling to fill roles in cyber security despite the increasing number of hacking attacks, experts say.

With this week’ s London Conference on Cyberspace tackling cyber security on a global scale, the Cyber Security Challenge UK, last Friday, looked at problems closer to home with a roundtable debate on recruitment issues facing the UK industry. 

Following on from head of GCHQ Iain Lobban's comments on the "disturbing" level of cyber attacks in the UK and the recent London Conference on Cyberspace, information security experts and leading employers expressed concern about the difficulties in procuring talent and resources to counter this rising threat. 

Members of QinetiQ, PwC, the SANS Institute, the Royal Mail and Cassidian gathered at a rountable discussion held by the Cyber Security Challenge UK last week, along with government, skills and education experts, and previous contestants.

“It’s difficult for the talented people out there to find open doors into the profession," said Cyber Security Challenge UK director Judy Baker, adding that routes into cyber security were often poorly sign-posted.

"There is a lot of serendipity in how people get into this industry and it seems that unless you have the right formal qualifications you can be screened out an early stage and never have an opportunity to demonstrate your skills.”

Last year’s challenge winner Dan Summers, was highlighted as a good example of how an alternative approach, looking for aptitude and talent rather than experience and qualifications, can pay off. 

He entered the competition last year while working as a postman for the Royal Mail, and was offered several jobs after he won the challenge.

He’s now working at the Royal Mail as part of their cyber security team.

Other former contestants spoke of their frustration in finding that companies required relevant experience and qualifications which often prevented them from pursuing a career in the field

Many began developing their skills in their own time, and the Challenge team said it aimed to target these kind of people in an effort to steer them towards employers who are desperate for people with their skills set.

“We need to capture the imaginations of some of those talented individuals and encourage them towards a path on the right side of law which can benefit the UK as a whole," said Nigel Harrison from the Cabinet Office.

"This can be done by offering them a space to express their skills and learn how they can adapt their talent to the needs of employers."

Many around the table insisted that the solutions needed to start in school while others said employers needed to be more creative in their recruitment campaigns.

The opportunities of a career in cyber security shouldn’t just be presented to those interested in ICT, said Paula Glover, an occupational psychologist from QinetiQ. 

“The net needs to be spread much further to make people aware that security isn’t just a deep technical space, there are other aspects to it like business analysis and risk management," she said.

The Challenge has attracted thousands of players over its two programmes of competitions and over £30,000 worth of career enabling prizes have so far been awarded to the winners. 

“We have a long way to go," Baker said. "80 per cent of the people who were involved in the games didn't know what training they needed to get them into this industry and 90 per cent didn’t know there were employers out there that might be interested in their skills.

"We need to do a lot more to inform people about these issues.”

Further information:

Try the Foreign Office cipher launched by the Cyber Security Challenge UK to tie in with the cyberspace security conference.

Read more about the Cyber Security Challenge

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