“Employers need to cast fresh eyes over those areas of the UK which have struggled economically, as that is where there are significant opportunities for developing future cyber talent,” says Margaret Jones, General Manager of the Cyber Security Challenge.

Article author: Margaret Jones, General Manager of the Cyber Security Challenge

The Cyber Security Challenge is always looking for the next pool of untapped talent to encourage to take up careers in the industry, and we believe that there are vast amounts of previously unreached talent in regions of the UK which have historically struggled with economic deprivation. Employers need to cast fresh eyes over these regions in order to develop their future cyber talent.

Emerging regional tech hubs

Looking at the areas which Government agencies identify as having multiple indices of deprivation, the Cyber Security Challenge team noticed something interesting. Many of these areas map to areas identified as having higher than average employment in technology and emerging tech hubs. And this is not a coincidence. These areas are cheaper for start-ups to establish themselves, often attract government investment for new business and are increasingly co-located with forward-thinking further education establishments.

Growth in UK regions: Dundee

A great example of this cooperation between government, education and business in order to promote employment opportunity is in the Tay Cities region, which has Dundee at its heart and some of the most deprived areas in Scotland.

The Government recently invested £11m in order to develop a Cyber Security Centre of Excellence and an additional £15m is being invested to establish the UK’s first Forensic Science Research Centre: an Innovation Cluster Development alongside the University of Abertay’s Cyber Quarter, and build a world-leading vibrant culture of Innovation, Communication and Economy at the University of Dundee.

Growth in UK regions: Bournemouth

Bournemouth is another example of an area which struggles with high levels of deprivation. Banking and technology giant, JP Morgan, originally established a technology and operations hub in the area in 1986. It has now grown from 650 staff to some 4000 employees, leveraging “the skills of the local workforce in the Dorset region” as well as the rest of the UK. In addition, Bournemouth University has a burgeoning cyber security discipline that turns out high quality graduates. A Challenge Masterclass alumni, Sophia McCall, is now a final year student studying Cyber Security Management at Bournemouth and is the captain of the UK team for the European Cyber Security Competition run by ENISA.

New jobs for local talent

The result of creating emerging technology hubs in these regions is that there are new jobs for local talent, meaning they can find work without having to leave their hometowns.

‘Commercially the decision to offshore cyber security makes less and less sense as the limited supply of talent exerts upward pressure on resource costs for everyone. The UK is providing a high quality service outside the primary UK cities where the cost of living allows for keen commercial pricing,’ says David McClure, recently retired head of Cyber Security for BT who sits on the Scottish Cyber Security Leaders Board. ‘In addition, businesses who take their security seriously want to work with someone they can develop a relationship with, and that is often easiest with someone local’.

Cyber security: opportunities for all

With above-average wages for individuals who work in cyber and cheaper house prices in regional areas, careers in cyber security can provide local residents with an amazing opportunity to stay in their hometown with their friends and family, and still have the rewarding careers that previously only came to those few who relocated to the big cities. But making sure locals rather than relocating middle classes take advantage of these opportunities requires investment in the younger generation as they make their way through the education system.

Through the Cyber Security Challenge’s Schools Programme, we are engaging young people early in their journey and signposting the way ahead to a career in cyber security by pointing them to the Cyber First and Cyber Discovery programmes, as well as Northrop Grumman’s Cyber Centurion competition. As a result, we can make sure that they are ready to take up those opportunities.