Experts have predicted there will be a global shortage of 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals worldwide by 2020. If Australia is to compete in an increasingly connected and security-conscious digital era, steps must be taken to encourage and support the next generation of cyber security experts. That’s where training and education programs come in.
Universities, government and enterprise can play a critical role in addressing the challenge, by developing and supporting programs that offer industry experience and training to students of all ages.
Fostering an enthusiasm in cyber security early on could make all the difference.
The Australian Computer Society (ACS) reports that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) knowledge is associated with 75 per cent of the fastest growing jobs, wage premiums and innovations – but young Australians show declining interest and performance in these areas.1 Last year’s Cyber Security Strategy from the Federal Government showed the number of high school graduates commencing tertiary study in ICT has halved in the last ten years, and 11 per cent fewer students study maths in year 12 than in 1992.
Furthermore, research from GradAustralia reveals that even when students are studying STEM subjects, only 55% agreed their “course provides the skills necessary for the labour market”.
Diving into the world of cyber security
Last week, Victorian secondary school students were able to get hands-on experience in cyber security, participating in ‘Cyber Games’, a new interschool competition designed to foster the next generation of cyber defenders.
The Cyber Games program, a La Trobe University collaboration supported by Optus and Cisco, provides students with a chance to use teamwork and individual problem-solving to tackle real-world cyber-attack scenarios. The first challenge was given to 10 schools from Wodonga, Bendigo and metropolitan Melbourne.
Ahmad Jaber, Cisco Network Consulting Engineer, ran the cyber-attack simulator for the students, using real-life situations that gradually increased in complexity.
Professor John Dewar, La Trobe Vice-Chancellor, says Cyber Games aims to provide students with the skills they will need to work in cyber security.
“There is a huge need for a new workforce of cyber defenders,” said Professor Dewar. “This initiative will not only educate a new generation of cyber-literate students, it will also help close the gap on a looming skills shortage.
“Cyber Games will simulate real-world threat scenarios for these secondary school students, who we hope will go on to study cybersecurity at La Trobe University and perhaps then work for Cisco, Optus or any of our other business partners.”
A situation of national and international importance
The cyber security skills shortage could have significant and detrimental effects to the Australian economy. In light of recent high-profile global security breaches, and the consequent impact on brand reputation, being able to securely operate, innovate, and maintain trust with customers is crucial to success.
By increasing organisational focus on the capabilities and skills of the future, businesses can help to support future innovation, productivity and economic growth.
John Paitaridis, Managing Director of Optus Business, said “Optus and La Trobe University have a joint commitment to build the skills of the future for the knowledge economy.
“Initiatives like Cyber Games deliver interactive and innovative learning opportunities in cyber education and exciting game-changing ways in which we can connect and engage whilst creating pathways for our youth into the jobs of the future.”
The competition final will be held on 18 November. The 2017 champions will receive direct-entry offers to La Trobe University’s new Bachelor of Cybersecurity.
Read more about the Optus Cyber Experience Program here.
Watch the Cyber Games video here.
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