A Blackburn entrepreneur-led technology company has been appointed as North West’s delivery partner for a pilot test of CyberFirst Schools, led by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC).
Mo Isap, who runs the HOST innovation hub, the home of skills and technology at MediaCity, will help promote cyber education in the region’s Northwest Cyber Corridor.
Through its flagship Skills City operation, HOST will offer the CyberFirst Schools pilot over a one-year period to more than 500 colleges and universities across the Northwest to inspire more young people to explore careers in cybersecurity.
The collaboration will further increase fair access to tech careers, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented groups, including girls and young women, where representation in the sector is considerably under-represented, with women making up just 22 percent of UK cyber workforce.
The CyberFirst Schools initiative recognizes schools and universities across the UK that are committed to encouraging young people to develop cyber skills, and are awarded a Gold, Silver or Bronze status by the NCSC.
Since the initiative launched in 2020, 49 CyberFirst schools and colleges have been recognized, helping develop cyber skills ecosystems across the country and addressing the industry cyber skills gap.
The 2022 CyberFirst Girls competition final was also held at HOST in Salford and focused on inspiring girls aged 12-13 to consider pursuing careers in cybersecurity.
HOST, operated by Preston-based IN4 Group and led by Mr. Isap, will leverage its extensive network of local and national employers to help facilitate engagement between industry and schools in the region.
This will allow more young people to access opportunities, such as mentoring and work experience, outside of the classroom and in the growing technology sector.
It will work with leading industry and regional academic partners, including BAE Systems, Raytheon, Siemens, AWS, the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Salford, to drive further investment in schools and future-ready tech talent.
Mo Isap, IN4 Group Chief Executive, said: “Having been born and raised in Blackburn, it’s fantastic to see such great prospects for Lancashire and Greater Manchester, and we now have a great opportunity to inspire future generations to careers in technology with the CyberFirst program.
“This will have a huge impact on young people in the region, who currently live in places like Salford, Accrington and Blackpool.
“The union of education, skills, technology and industry is the key factor in creating prosperity in the region.
“With the UK government’s investment of over £5bn in its new National Cyber Force in Samlesbury, Lancashire, the region is leading the way in establishing more innovation and skills as part of the emerging North West Cyber Corridor.”
The contract follows HOST’s successful delivery of three rounds of GCHQ’s Innovation Co-Lab, a program that aimed to find innovative startups and small and medium-sized businesses in the Northwest.
Successful companies participated in a 12-week program to work with GCHQ technologists and industry experts to improve their products.
HOST also held the first Northwest Cyber Summit in March to support the construction of the Cyber Corridor.
NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth Chris Ensor said, “NCSC is committed to providing young people with opportunities to excel in cybersecurity, and our work with industry plays a vital role in this.
“We are pleased that HOST will be piloting our Northwest CyberFirst Schools initiative on our behalf and appreciate their support in building the region’s cyber skills ecosystem.”
The CyberFirst program offers a range of free opportunities aimed at giving young people the skills, opportunities and exposure they need to thrive in cybersecurity.
More information about CyberFirst opportunities in the Northwest can be found on the HOST website.