The Northern Ireland government has announced a partnership with Immersive Labs and Capita, in which cybersecurity career opportunities will be provided to 16–25-year-olds living in the region.
The pilot initiative will offer free access to an enterprise-grade cyber-skills development platform for those who may not otherwise have access to relevant education courses. Initially, the aim is to upskill 1,000 individuals, who will subsequently have job opportunities in large organizations as incident responders, security architects, and security and vulnerability analysts.
The training will take place via the Immersive Labs gamified online platform, which is used by security teams to enhance skills in areas like software development and incident response. Those youngsters selected for the program will be dropped into browser-based labs portraying a range of cyber-threat scenarios. This will help them develop skills in a range of areas, including understanding how attackers operate and Base64 encoding.
The collaboration is designed to boost employment opportunities in Northern Ireland, a country in the UK, as well as to help address the worrying cyber-skills gap. Last month, a UK government-sponsored report found that half of UK businesses reported cyber-skills gaps in 2020, while the Learning & Work Institute recently warned that the UK is heading toward a “catastrophic” digital skills shortage.
Commenting on the announcement, Northern Ireland economy minister Diane Dodds outlined: “Northern Ireland has a growing international reputation in cybersecurity and the industry has seen significant growth in recent years. Capita have teamed up with Immersive Labs to deliver this online skills development and access to job vacancies. We have been working closely with industry to promote the myriad of varied and rewarding careers within the cybersecurity area and we will ensure candidates who successfully complete training can apply for the relevant vacancies advertised on the platform.”
James Hadley, CEO of Immersive Labs, said: “It’s great to see the Northern Ireland Government taking such a proactive role in addressing the need for cyber-skills, as well as opening up careers to as broad a range of people as possible. Large organizations are not just held back by a shortage of cyber talent, but also a lack of diverse approaches to problems which benefit from a wide range of opinions and backgrounds.”
Recruitment for the scheme will begin in June, and will be open to 16–25-year-olds resident in Northern Ireland who have essential skills or GCSEs in math and English.
Earlier this year, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, was recognized for its cybersecurity education program and work promoting cyber-skills in its local community.