Why your business needs a cyber-security apprentice…

Promotional Business Feature: University of Gloucestershire - Pictured Professor Kamal Bechkoum, Head of the School of Computing and Engineering at University of Gloucestershire,
Professor Kamal Bechkoum, Head of the School of Computing and Engineering at University of Gloucestershire,

Businesses can receive up to £3,000 government-funding for taking on a new cyber-security apprentice. Professor Kamal Bechkoum, head of Computing and Engineering at the University of Gloucestershire, explains why this is an opportunity not to be missed.

Between now and January 31st, 2021, the government’s ‘plan for jobs’ initiative is offering incentive payments to employers of £2,000 for every new apprentice they hire, aged 16-24, as well as a £1,500 payment for each new apprentice aged 25 or older.

These payments are being made in addition to the existing £1,000 the government already provides for non-levy employers hiring new 16-18 year-old apprentices, meaning a total potential benefit of up to £3,000 per apprentice can be paid directly to businesses which participate.

To be eligible, apprentices cannot have been employed by a business within the six months prior to their apprenticeship contract start date.

Apprenticeships combine on the job training with studying, typically one day a week, towards a work-based qualification, ranging from GCSEs, or equivalent, up to degree level. It usually takes between one and four years to complete an apprenticeship.

The big picture here is to provide targeted help for young people, getting them into work and gaining the skills they need, while also providing employers with capable workers with specialist knowledge about the challenges organisations are facing.

Adding an apprentice to your team can be hugely beneficial for your organisation, and it’s a great way to respond to change, grow your business and foster loyalty. However, in which area of work would you elect to appoint the apprentice?

Different businesses have different needs but there is a very strong argument to be made that, given the impact of digitalisation on every business, an apprentice who specialises in cyber-security is of the utmost importance.

Unprecedented growth in cyber-security demand

A pressing reason for this urgency is that around 50% of all UK businesses are experiencing an essential gap in cyber skills, a point highlighted by recent research from Ipsos MORI, which also finds that 68% of organisations have struggled to recruit capable cyber-security candidates over the last three years.

Some 35% of these vacancies are classed as entry-level roles and described as ‘hard to fill’ because too many prospective employees don’t possess a high enough level of expertise.

At the same time, 30% of UK businesses are lacking confidence in handling advanced cyber-security threats in an increasingly difficult operating environment.

Another report from Mimecast – ‘100 Days of Coronavirus (Covid-19)’ finds that organisations have suffered a 35.16% increase in malware detections, along with a significant increase in spam (26.3%), impersonations (30.3%), and unsafe URL clicks (55.8%).

The number of online-linked devices, otherwise known as the ‘Internet of Things’ (IOT), in 2020 varies from between 26 billion to 75 billion. So much information is created by these devices – more than 2.5 quintillion bytes – that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two to three years alone.

How a cyber-security apprentice helps

With the skills gap widening across the IT sector, particularly in cyber-security, businesses need to find innovative and new ways to attract and train diverse talent that meets their needs.

Cyber apprentices can be developed to specialise in more than one area and offer an ideal answer to meeting growing demand for expertise in security challenges across networking, hardware, software, cloud computing, infrastructure security and more.

Apprenticeships are also often ideal for those who excel beyond more traditional education routes. Personalities that are naturally task-focused, loyal, methodical, logical, and who pay particular attention to detail, often prove to be the perfect candidates for cyber-related tasks and responsibilities.

To better protect your organisation in the first instance it’s important to understand that a cyber-attack is inevitable. It’s really not a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’

One of the greatest  cyber threats today is ‘phishing,’ where criminals try to steal sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords or credit card details by impersonating a trustworthy contact using e-communication.

Hackers have also adjusted their attacks to targeting remote-workers by impersonating trusted tech platforms including Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams.

Research from Check Point found that more than 1,700 Zoom-related domains were registered within a three-week period, and 4% of these were suspicious or potentially malicious.

Considering this it is understandable that cyber defences can never be 100% secure. The biggest challenge facing organisations is the need to improve their understanding of where threats are most likely to come from, and to engage in good security practice at all levels of the organisation.

How to hire an apprentice

When it comes to finding and hiring a new apprentice, here are some of the key steps you need to follow:

  1. Set up an Apprenticeship Service account

Registering for an account makes the entire process much more straightforward when it comes to finding a training provider and recruiting an apprentice. You can use this account to source apprenticeship funding, locate and save apprenticeships and training providers, and recruit and manage apprenticeships.  

  1. Select an apprenticeship standard

What skills and training would benefit organisation? Visit the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education for more information about apprenticeships standards. I highly recommend The University of Gloucestershire’s Cyber Technical & Professional Degree Apprenticeship as an excellent option.  

  1. Locate a training provider

After picking the right course search out an organisation that will help deliver it. The online portal also highlights which different training providers offer specific courses.

  1. Safety and compliance

Just like hiring any other employee, businesses should conducting any necessary risk assessments and be compliant with employment law and liability insurance.

  1. Apprenticeship funding

Check your funding eligibility and any associated training costs raining costs vary depending on the apprenticeship standard you choose.

  1. Find your apprentice

The training organisation you choose will help you through the find an apprenticeship service.

The job description you advertise should include the qualifications offered, functions to be carried out, and any knowledge or interests that are desirable.

  1. Interviewing

This is the same as if you were interviewing for a normal employee, except candidates won’t necessarily have a full share of experience and qualifications – this is why they’ve come to you.

  1. Make an apprenticeship agreement

Once you’ve chosen your apprentice, you’ll sign an apprentice agreement, covering the length of employment, training provided, working conditions and the qualifications they will be working towards.

  1. Start the apprenticeship!

Welcome your new apprentice into the team and make sure they understand the expectations of the training course and what lies ahead.

The University of Gloucestershire’s Cyber-Security Degree Apprenticeship offer

The University of Gloucestershire’s was the first university in the UK to launch the Level 6 Cyber Technical & Professional Degree Apprenticeship.

The programme has received a Tech Industry Gold award and features learning criteria set by individual employers. It develops expertise in threats including malware, defensive programming, risk-assessment and computer architecture.

Teaching focuses on engagement in activities and tasks, rather than formal lectures, and learning and assessment emphasises real-world problems.

Applicants mostly require three A-levels, including maths or other relevant qualifications or experience. To successfully apply, candidates should be in full-time employment – at least 30 hours a week – for the duration of their apprenticeship, and 20% of their working hours should be spent on off-the-job training.

Find out more about the University of Gloucestershire’s Cyber Security Degree Apprenticeship.

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