Matthew Neville

MediaCity innovation hub to tackle cyber security skills gap with ‘CyberFirst Schools’ initiative

Innovation hub HOST, the “home of skills & technology” in MediaCity, has been appointed as the North West delivery partner for a pilot of CyberFirst Schools.

These will be run by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), to champion cyber education in the region’s North West Cyber Corridor.

Through its flagship Skills City operation, HOST will deliver the CyberFirst Schools pilot over a one-year period to over 500 schools and colleges from across the North West to “inspire more young people to explore careers in cyber security”.

The collaboration will further increase fair access to technology careers, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented groups, including girls and young women. Female representation in the sector is said to be considerably low, with women accounting for just 22 per cent of the UK’s cyber workforce.

HOST, operated by IN4 Group, will draw on its extensive local and national employer network to help facilitate engagement between industry and schools in the region. This will enable more young people to access opportunities, such as mentoring and work experience, outside the classroom and in the growing technology sector.

It will be working with leading industry and regional academic partners including BAE Systems, Raytheon, Siemens, AWS, University of Central Lancashire and University of Salford, to drive further investment into schools and future-proof technology talent.

Since the initiative was launched in 2020, 49 CyberFirst schools and colleges have been recognised, helping to develop cyber skills ecosystems around the country and addressing the industry’s cyber skills gap.

The 2022 CyberFirst Girls Competition final was also held at HOST in Salford and was focused on inspiring girls aged 12 to 13 to consider pursuing careers in cyber security.

Mo Isap, CEO of IN4 Group, said: “Being Blackburn born and bred, it’s fantastic to see these great prospects for Lancashire as well as Greater Manchester, and now we have a significant opportunity to inspire future generations into technology careers with the CyberFirst programme.

“This will have a huge impact on young people across the region, who are currently living in places like Salford, Accrington and Blackpool. The bringing together of education, skills, technology and industry is the key enabler to creating prosperity in the region.”

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