Cyber-security lessons could be expanded in UK schools

Cyber-security padlock More apprenticeship schemes in businesses related to cyber-security will be developed

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Plans to teach children as young as 11 about careers in cyber-security have been announced.

New learning materials would be offered to UK schools to publicise jobs in the sector, the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills said.

A recent report said limited awareness of cyber-security as a profession had created a skills shortage.

One expert said the UK was at risk of being "left behind and at a disadvantage globally".

"There's no doubt that as more and more of our lives rely upon the internet, the need for a capable, security-savvy workforce increases," security consultant Graham Cluley explained.

"Of course, this goes beyond private enterprises.

"The authorities, including the police and intelligence agencies, need experts in computer security to combat online criminals and thwart internet attacks.

But he added: "My worry would be that public authorities will not have the budget to properly pay for cyber-security expertise, and the best talent will remain in silos in private enterprise instead."

Last month the National Audit Office said a lack of skilled workers was hampering the UK's fight against cyber-crime.

The spending watchdog heard from experts who believed it could take "up to 20 years to address the skills gap".

'Competitive advantage'

The latest plans said teachers would be given training in how to inform children about this new, evolving subject area.

Universities and science minister David Willetts said: "Today countries that can manage cyber security risks have a clear competitive advantage.

"By ensuring cyber-security is integral to education at all ages, we will help equip the UK with the professional and technical skills we need for long-term economic growth."

In addition to the learning materials for those aged 11 to 14, apprenticeship schemes for older pupils would be developed, along with work experience at relevant firms.

The proposals were welcomed by the Cyber Security Skills Alliance, a group of organisations promoting cyber-security issues and education.

Speaking on its behalf, Sir David Pepper said a national shortage of cyber skills was "a key issue" for businesses and the government in dealing with "the growing threat from cyber-crime".

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

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