Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

How Cisco is working with the Tech Partnership to tackle the cyber skills shortage

January 13, 2017

This was originally posted on The Tech Partnership 

With cyber crime on the rise, cyber security professionals are tipped to be among the most in-demand tech recruits in the UK this year. But with a persistent skills gap in the area, the need to fill this demand has never been more urgent.

Cisco is one company helping to fix this. It’s been supporting the Tech Partnership’s Countdown to Chaos – an online learning resource to teach school-age children cyber security skills- since its inception 2 years ago. Available free to students, the government-funded resource forms part of the wider Badge Academy resource which encourages young people to gain electronic badges in recognition of their tech skills.

We caught up with Cisco’s head of digitisation and skills, Hema Marshall, who’s been working hard on the project, to understand a little more about what Countdown to Chaos and digital resources in general, mean to her company.

What is Countdown to Chaos?
Countdown to Chaos is an interactive simulation of a cyber-attack on the UK Power Grid by the Tech Partnership. The students’ job is to analyse the information they are presented with and figure out who is responsible. The Tech Partnership has tried to make Countdown to Chaos as exciting and realistic as possible, using mixed media including video footage, news bulletins and social media messages. These will appear as you work through the resource, and all of these include hints about the possible perpetrator of the cyber attack. Against the clock, students decide who this perpetrator is.

You’re also creating digital badges for the wider platform – why is this important?
Yes, we’re also supporting a suite of badges on Cyber security for KS4 and KS5 (GCSE and A level students). As the volume and sophistication of cyber attacks rises, organisations are experiencing a significant shortage of IT professionals with cyber security skills. To help close the security skills gap we decided that an interactive badge would help develop skills and enthusiasm for cyber expertise. With the digital transformation at the heart of how we all work, live and play, organisations are relying increasingly on cyber security to protect themselves, enable trust, move faster, add value, and grow.

How do you think digital badges will benefit young people?
Learning today happens anywhere and everywhere: in the classroom, in the community, online and at home. Open badges are an online recognition of a skill or achievement that students have earned – and are increasingly being recognised by employers on the lookout for tomorrow’s talent. Cisco’s Cyber Detective badge (Countdown to Chaos) is the most popular badge on the platform  – with over 230 students earning it, That’s testament to a new way of learning and the appetite for these skills. We’re finding the current Cisco badge uptake is increasing steadily as it becomes more recognised by teachers.

How you think digital badges will benefit your business?
As we develop talent, the business benefits are unprecedented and these allow Cisco to remain competitive in the market. The badges will help nurture talent in the tech industry and allow us to innovate in this space.

Would you recommend digital badges to other employers?
Absolutely, it is an incredibly rewarding, fun and exciting way to inspire young people into the industry.

Countdown to Chaos was generously funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Discover more about Tech Partnership learning resources

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