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National Cyber Security Centre encourages more girls to learn cyber security skills

PUBLISHED: 13:59 12 March 2019

GCHQ is offering schoolgirls free cyber courses

GCHQ is offering schoolgirls free cyber courses


A three-fold increase in take up for its CyberFirst scheme sees GCHQ laying on hundreds of free courses to encourage girls to pursue a career in cyber

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is calling on more girls to pursue a path in cyber security with hundreds of free courses after a 300% growth in young people taking part in its CyberFirst programme.

The NCSC, part of GCHQ, has seen a three-fold increase in the number of girls taking up its challenge since 2016 - but globally, the cyber workforce is still 89% male. And both bodies want more girls funnelled in to their talent pipeline.

The CyberFirst programme offers a range of courses, competitions and student bursaries for 11-to-17 year olds.

Those who registered for the 2019 competition have, for the last few weeks, been pitting their wits against girls at other schools in a series of complex online cyber challenges in cryptography, cyber security, logic and coding and networking

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Skills and Growth, said: “Trebling the number of young people taking part on CyberFirst courses is an encouraging start, however women only make a small proportion of the global cyber workforce and throughout GCHQ and the NCSC we are looking to address the imbalance.

“Ensuring the inquisitive instincts of young people to find out how things work are maintained is hugely important.

“In the first two CyberFirst girls’ competitions we have seen how much entrants engage with the challenges we set and this year’s competition is due to be bigger and just as cryptic.”

As an added incentive to all the girls competing, the NCSC will be offering 600 free places on specially-commissioned four-day CyberFirst Defenders courses in April and May this year.

These courses will be all girls and a mix of residential and non-residential at locations across the UK.

Over the past two years, 12,500 girls in schools across the UK have participated in the NCSC’s CyberFirst competition of problem-solving and code cracking challenges to crown the UK’s most cyber-capable young women.

Participants entered in teams of up to four, along with a teacher or mentor who act as a guardian throughout the competition. Ten teams who triumphed in the online challenges will compete face-to-face in the final in Edinburgh this month.

Odette, a student from Gloucestershire, said: “I really enjoyed how the competition story fitted together and was set out like a realistic cyber attack. The challenges covered skills in computing you wouldn’t ordinarily come across at school.”

Visit the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) website here.

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