Plugging the cyber skills gap

Raytheon UK’s Cyber Academy workshops are helping to upskill a new generation of cyber specialists

The world is more connected than ever before, changing the way we live and do business.  As our reliance on connected devices increases; however, so does our reliance on strong cybersecurity measures to keep us safe online.

But what happens when there is a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals?

“As the Internet of Things expands and people increase their reliance on technology, there are more weaknesses that can be exploited by bad people,” said Tom, a student at the University of Gloucestershire. “Without good people trying to protect cyberspace, the bad guys can go from exploiting a home network, to attacking whole governments.”

In 2021, the Government’s National Cyber Security Strategy stated that nearly 50% of all UK businesses reported a basic technical cybersecurity skill gap. Recent studies estimate that in 2022, there could be a talent gap of more than 1.8 million cyber specialist roles in the UK. From the secure storage and transfer of personal data to the detection and removal of malware, organisations across the country are struggling to find the basic cybersecurity skills needed to keep them safe online.

That is where the Raytheon UK Cyber Academy workshops come into play. Delivered in collaboration with the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas in San Antonio, the workshops are designed to inspire and educate the next generation of cybersecurity specialists, giving students experience in cybersecurity techniques and methods to find and address cyber vulnerabilities.

For students like Tom, who heard about the workshops through his university careers newsletter, the chance to join the fight against cyber-criminals was an opportunity too good to turn down.

“I really enjoyed the breadth of the course, and it covered tools that were only briefly mentioned in my course,” he said. “I feel that my knowledge of Powershell, Wireshark and the Windows security options has increased, and I would feel confident in being able to implement some of what I have learnt in a commercial setting.”

Over 125 other students, equipped with their own laptops and Zoom, joined the workshops in 2021 and started on their cybersecurity journeys. The students were recruited from a range of institutions and organisations including the University of Gloucestershire, the University of Lincoln, Lancaster University, veterans from the White Ensign Association and members of We Are Tech Women. The courses' virtual nature allowed some to participate while still doing their day jobs.

“I have wanted to learn more about cybersecurity for a while, particularly since COVID and working-from-home,” said Lindsay, who fit the course in around her schedule as a bid manager. “Even though I am reasonably good with IT…being offered free tuition like this was an opportunity that could not be missed so that I could gain a more in-depth understanding.”

Aligned with Raytheon UK’s commitment to developing advanced cyber skills in the UK, the workshops are primarily aimed at students with no previous experience of security-related tasks and concepts in the Windows operating systems. They also provide participants with a glimpse of what it is like to work on the frontline with Raytheon UK’s cyber team.

“Raytheon UK is an established company that has a strong history of security. I wanted to take the opportunity to hear from their practitioners and learn more,” added Tom.

To complete the course and receive their certificates, students were given an exercise in which they were tasked with securing a target system using the knowledge that they had gained in each of the modules. They were then scored based on their ability to find, address and mitigate all misconfigurations and vulnerabilities in the provided targets and the amount of time it took them to do so. These types of skills, according to lecturer Dwayne Williams from the University of Texas, will put the students in good stead for a future career in cyber.

“Technical workshops cover topics and hands-on skills that are not often addressed in a traditional academic course,” said Williams. “Workshops like these absolutely help students prepare for careers in information technology and cybersecurity and are a perfect complement to university programs. Thanks to the very generous support of Raytheon UK, we’ve been able to train hundreds of students in the UK in 2021.”

To further their interest in the topic, the students who successfully completed the workshops were invited to a meeting hosted by the Raytheon UK team to hear firsthand what it is like to work in the cybersecurity sector and what a career at Raytheon UK looks like. And, of course, it's possible the cyber students of the workshops might soon become Raytheon UK experts, working to protect networks from cyber intrusion.

“We are committed to collaborating with universities to support the development of advanced cyber skills in the UK,” said James Gray, managing director, Cyber, Space & Training at Raytheon UK. “In a fast-changing world, it is vital that cyber knowledge is taught throughout the education system, and we are here to inspire the next generation of cyber leaders.”