Raytheon is moving to bridge the UK's cyber-skills gap with new apprenticeships

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To help combat the UK's high technology skills shortages, Raytheon is preparing to launch new cyber-apprenticeships as part of a £2m investment. The new-two year programme will provide those with an interest in cybersecurity an alternative career path to three and four-year degree courses. The apprenticeships will help candidates develop the in-house skills they'll need to face the mounting threat posed by cyberattacks.

TechRadar Pro spoke with the company's managing director of cyber and intelligence, James Gray to learn more about the apprenticeships and what strategies organisations and governments will employ to try to close the skills gap.

What kind of skills shortages are we facing in the tech industry today?

Figures from the Department for Education show that IT is the second hardest hit industry in the UK when it comes to skills shortages. In particular, cyber security and software developers are massively sought after and there are significant shortfalls in locations all over the UK.

Generating these skilled workers is vitally important. There have been 1,769,185,053 leaked records since January 2016, and attacks manifest constantly through initiatives that target both business and individuals.

Raytheon is investing in training the next generation to tackle this growing risk, which is why it is launching a new UK Cyber Apprenticeship Scheme to help businesses upskill their workforce. 

Our apprenticeships will generate fully qualified security practitioners on two specialist tracks: Cyber intrusion analysts and cybersecurity technologists.

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How does the UK fare compared to other countries?

The shortage of skilled cyber workers is a widespread problem that continues to bite around the world. A 2017 study by Indeed.co.uk looked at 10 different countries, and found that only the US and Canada had even half the number of job seekers to fill these vacancies. 

But that said, it is clear the skills gap is more pressing in the UK than in many other countries.

Part of the reason we’re seeing this demand in the UK is because the NCSC has had some success in helping businesses understand the importance of education for both individuals and organisations. The NCSC has been working hard to bring this to prominence and other countries are now copying this model.

On the whole, Raytheon’s experience in the UK has been that young people are engaged and excited by the opportunities of a cyber career, but they need to understand the opportunities that are out there, and the accessibility of these positions.

Whose responsibility should it be to ameliorate this situation? The government? Or businesses themselves?

Meeting this challenge requires a combined effort from both government and business. Neither side can move the dial on their own and Raytheon will continue to work as a trusted partner to government to meet the needs of business in a rapidly changing environment.

In particular, we would suggest that the National Curriculum needs to ensure that STEM subjects, with particular emphasis on coding and understanding technology at the very earliest stages, are appropriately developed. Similarly, coding schools such as Cyber First Girls, Acorn Aspirations and Coder Dojo offer good resources but are largely either social enterprises or private businesses.

Separately, employers have a role to play in developing their staff and providing them with training opportunities to develop and specialise in areas like cyber-security.

But despite the best efforts of the NCSC in raising awareness, the level of education at the top end of many of those businesses remains a problem. 

Many company boards still don’t fully appreciate the digital risks they face. For example, businesses should be wary of their supply chains, which can pose hidden dangers when their security is not up to standards. The NCSC continues to work to bring this  to prominence and, again,  other countries are looking to emulate those steps, but we must persevere and hammer home those messages. 

What is Raytheon doing to help improve the current landscape?

Raytheon is fully invested in Britain and invested in the development of cyber skills across the UK. 

As mentioned, we are clear in our view that education is the best way to tackle the cyber skills gap, and to mitigate against cyber-crime today. 

That’s why Raytheon has invested in these cyber apprenticeships, and it’s why we’re committed to developing skills in the next generation through programmes like our Cyber Academy, which provides university students with intense three-day workshops, mini-camps and bursaries to support specialist cyber education.

Interestingly, Raytheon has also found that there is an opportunity to reconsider who we consider to be strong candidates for these roles. Graduates with less technically-focused degrees such as English Literature can bring in new and different ways of thinking, to the benefit of all sides.

In doing so, Raytheon will take advantage of the lessons we’ve learned as a global business to benefit the cyber security of the UK.

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How will the new programme directly help those looking to get ahead of the game?

Apprentices trained in cyber security by Raytheon will get the opportunity to spend two years learning from experts at the cutting edge of the field, combining job experience with teaching sessions and lab time. 

Apprenticeships will develop the skills to face the mounting threat posed by cyberattacks and successful candidates will be certified as qualified security practitioners.

And ultimately, they will be able to deploy defence-grade expertise in the business marketplace, with employers and employees reaping the benefits of Raytheon’s position as one of the world’s largest defence and technology companies.