Digital Technologies and Cyber Security
The demand for cyber security specialists, both core cyber and cyber-enabled, is outstripping the existing workforce supply. A recent study has found that cyber security job postings has grown by 94% in around six years. In comparison, the number of generic information technology (IT) jobs has grown by around 30% and cyber security now accounts for 13% of all IT jobs. It can take over 50 days for an organisation to fill a cyber security position with a suitably qualified candidate and the Cyber & Digital Faculty at Berkeley Green UTC focuses on providing a pipeline to the industry of knowledgeable and skilled young people, who stand out from their peers.
Students are encouraged to join us in year 10 and to see their education with us as a four year programme that flows seamlessly from KS4 to KS5. In years 10 and 11, students elect to study up to three Cyber & Digital qualifications (GCSE Computer Science; BTEC Digital Information Technology and BTEC Creative Media Production).
All qualifications provide a base set of knowledge that underpins the varying cyber-related roles in industry. At KS5, a Tech Level 3 qualification in Cyber Security is offered (one A Level equivalent) and affords students the opportunity to demonstrate practical skills in the coursework units focused on developing and maintaining computer networks, and network threats and vulnerabilities. In addition, this course is supplemented by an additional 2 A Level equivalent (OCR Cambridge Technicals) that is designed to increased knowledge in both cyber security and general digital technology sectors.
Our curriculum is enhanced and supported by extra-curricular opportunities including the National Cyber Security Centre’s Cyber Discovery programme, access to an industry leading cyber security training platform and visits to external events as part of our membership to the Gloucestershire Cyber Hub.
Cyber & Digital students have unrivaled facilities at the UTC. Our Security Operations Centre (SOC) allows students to hone their skills, using industry standard tools, in a safe laboratory environment. Our links with employer partners means that students have regular access to cutting-edge equipment that cyber security and digital technology professionals routinely use in the workplace. More recently, Palo Alto, donated 5 physical firewall appliances for students to install and configure and train two staff members so that they were able to support students. Students at the UTC will enter their next phase of employment or education confident that they not only understand the theory behind the nature and purpose of the hardware and software, but have practically install, upgraded and configured it. Students are exposed to a wide-range to operating systems and develop their skills so that they are proficient users.
Specialist software supports teaching and learning and students are able to learn about challenging topics in an interactive and engaging manner. For example, when learning about Virtual LANs, we used Cisco Packet Tracer to demonstrate to the students and then set them challenges to complete for themselves. Access to such tools brings learning to life and allows teaching staff to skillfully model best practice to students to learn from.
We also want to ensure that they also possess the necessary digital literacy required to enter the 21st Century workplace. All aspects of Office 365 are used to develop students’ communication and collaboration skills to enable this. Microsoft has acknowledged our efforts by awarding us “Showcase School” status. We were one of the earliest adopters of the Microsoft Teams communication platform in the country, and use the full range of features to enhance learning – using Skype to call industry experts from Symantec, for example. Our Fujitsu Innovation Hub provides a space for collaborative working and also doubles up as our virtual reality suite. Students use the VR systems to support their education (taking on the role of a blood cell in Biology, for example) or to develop their own solutions for others to use.
As a new UTC, we only have one year of destination data available but are very pleased with the results so far. Two students secured a cyber security civil service apprenticeship, which are widely regarded as uniquely challenging; it is unusual for schools to have more than one student get past the application stage, so we were delighted to have two in post. 25% of Year 13 students secured a Cyber/Digital apprenticeship in industry, including BT, Renishaw, Allianz Insurance and GE Aviation. 30% of Year 13 students went on to study at University, all with courses relating to the sector. In Year 11, 33% of students elected to stay at the UTC to continue with their Cyber & Digital studies and one student secured a Level 4 apprenticeship, beating a number of Post-16 students from other centres.
Employer engagement is a strong aspect of the Cyber & Digital Faculty’s practice. We work closely with leading industry organisations including Fujitsu, Acer, Palo Alto, IBM, NSCS, the Regional Cyber Crime Unit and Microsoft to ensure that courses are linked to the cyber industry and enable us to bring in experts to support teaching. We have previously had Fujitsu’s Vice-President of Cyber Security for EMEA deliver talks to our cohorts about the threat landscape and the emerging technologies being used to combat these threats. We also work closely with a variety of local companies including Cyber Security Associates (CSA) and CGI.
Key stage 4 students have attended whole day workshops on offensive and defensive cyber security techniques at CSA and leave further enthused about the potential for a future career. Our employer partners provide valuable experiences for the students; they set employer based projects, conduct mock interviews, provide work experience and enrich the students experience at the UTC.