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Cyber Skills – the mountain to climb

We’ve been working with some of the UK’s top experts in the cyber security and digital skills fields for some time now on a variety of projects.

What are the highlights from those contacts and the work that has been done?

  • Incredible top-level skill at our universities;

  • Mind-blowing mathematical abilities supporting cyber cryptography and advanced programming;

  • Eight world-leading centres of cyber-security excellence;

  • Brand new computer science syllabuses and qualifications for schools;

  • National digital and cyber-security strategies;

  • Tremendous ambition in the UK government to create a world-class skillset in the UK labour force – no hyperbole, I mean genuinely world-class.

And the lowlights?

  • There’s only one but it’s a Catch-22 …

There’s no pipeline of the right skills and, although there’s enthusiasm and willingness, the knowledge and skills to create the pipeline are almost non-existent at the lower levels.

We urgently need a pipeline of highly educated and skilled young people who can transition smoothly into the world of the future – and we need it double-quick.

Given the sort of time the Victorians had to establish the school system – about a century – the task would be simplicity itself. But we do not have that luxury.

Not only do we not have that amount of time, we are already having to race like crazy in order to keep up.

The digital world is moving so fast that only a few start-ups, technicians in the top digital companies, the government boffins at GCHQ, and top university professors can keep up. For the rest of us – and particularly teachers at almost all levels – it’s simply a blur.

Teach children a computer language this year and it’s been superseded next year. Develop a new app and watch it get side-lined by better alternatives within weeks, find a way to protect a digital asset this month and the hackers will have developed a way around it next week.

To cope with such an inhumanly-fast process we need a matching revolution in education – one which breaks away from the old, static syllabuses, the old rigid ideas of “subject” and “qualification”. We need a totally flexible approach based on fundamental skillsets rather than overarching, pre-defined knowledge structures.

Welcome to the future. Because the nation that cracks this issue will be the one which leads the world in digital skills and cyber-security; the one that can effectively write its own cheques.

The seeds are there, the recognition and rationalisation of the issue is easy.

The elephant in the room wears a coat on which is written in large letters and fluorescent colours the words … THE EXISTING SYSTEM – existing structures, existing teachers, and existing bureaucracies.

Here at Pye Tait, we know what the problem is, and we know what it will take to solve it. The question is … has the UK system got the will and the strength to do the radical things that will be necessary?


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