Looming cyber skills crisis threatens future of Thames Valley digital hub


Global cybersecurity leader, RSA Security (@RSAsecurity), is warning that the Thames Valley digital economy could face growth challenges unless the cybersecurity skills gap is addressed. The Thames Valley is a hub for UK technology innovation. There are 11,656 digital technology businesses based in Reading alone and the digital sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of Berkshire’s economic output. Cybersecurity skills are in higher demand here than the national average and government research shows more broadly that half of all businesses and charities (54%) have a basic technical cybersecurity skills gap to fill. To help address this, RSA has partnered with UK-wide educational charity EDT (Engineering Development Trust), to host the RSA Digital Risk Management Competition in 10 secondary schools across the Thames Valley.

Julie Feest, CEO at EDT is working with RSA on the project. She said: “We are excited to be working alongside RSA Security, one of the biggest names in the security industry, to deliver these events in the Thames Valley. The competition is a brilliant opportunity to engage young people in the topic of risk and security through our ‘experience day’ mechanism, as supported by our patron, HRH Prince Charles. It’s ultimately all about giving students the knowledge and exposure to help them make informed decisions about their future.”

The competition is designed to educate Thames Valley-based students on the digital risks they will face in their personal, school and eventually, professional lives – from cyber-attacks to data privacy – to help ensure the future of our digital economy will be secure. The Thames Valley is an industry hub for cybersecurity, home to more than 150 firms shaping cybersecurity products, services and development. Hosting the RSA Digital Risk Management Competition will help develop local skills for the industry, by promoting cybersecurity as a career choice to Thames Valley’s young people.

Chris Miller, Regional Director of UK and Ireland at RSA Security, believes that cybersecurity skills are being overlooked in the wider STEM discussion, which could lead to huge enterprise and governmental blind spots that put data and security at risk: “Digital transformation, services and technologies are shaping lives and economies all over the world. The innovation we have seen in recent years is phenomenal. Yet with every innovation, every change, there is a cause and effect that results in a new wave of digital risks. In order to transact in an unseen, virtual world, we need trust – we need to know, for example, that if we make a payment online, we are safe to do so. Cybersecurity provides the very foundations that this trust is built on. Without it, there can be no digital economy.”

Chris believes education and awareness at a younger age is essential to protecting the future digital economy: “We’re seeing more and more security incidents across all industries and the fact of the matter is, there aren’t enough human defenders to help tackle this issue. Cybersecurity is not taught or even really discussed at school level, or even A-Level; this needs to change if we want to build our digital defence force of the future. Cybersecurity is an area where both girls and boys can prepare themselves for potential careers in an ever-growing sector of technology and business. Partnering with EDT is a great way to raise awareness around the need to manage the variety of digital risks that face us daily. EDT has a strong heritage in delivering content in a way that engages and informs a younger audience. The RSA Digital Risk Management Competition will inspire around one thousand local students thinking about what a career in the sector could mean for them.”

The RSA Digital Risk Management Competition will consist of 10 ‘experience days’ at individual schools during September, October and November 2019. The experience days will be split into two halves, with the first consisting of an introduction to RSA Security and the work it does, as well as educating the students on what digital risk is and why it needs to be managed. Then, teams will take part in a series of hands-on activities to find solutions to different risk scenarios, before pitching their ideas to a panel of judges at the end of the day. The overall winning school is set to be announced on 21st November, during Industrial Cadets Week.