Off the back of piloting a valuable series of cyber security workshops for students at South Devon College, staff and students involved were invited to a conference on 23rd March, run by the South West Cyber Security Cluster, called Secure South West to share their experiences and lead conversation of the future of the cyber security sector.
Secure South West is a cyber security event which aims to connect industry, academia, education and local businesses together to ensure a safer digital future for all in the region. Presentations and discussion panels covered topics such as: social media, business protection, innovation, skills development, women in tech and more. Having returned for its 15th event, they focused on inspiring ‘new blood’ in the industry. They help people to develop cybersec skills, whether you’ve never touched a computer before or have code running through your veins.
The college’s head of curriculum for digital, creative and design, Gareth Day was joined by computing lecturer Liam Bottomley at the conference to discuss the benefits of these workshops that the Cluster support and what the future looks like for cyber at South Devon College.
Gareth said: “It’s an honour to be able to play a key role as a college in shaping what is an incredible platform for developing and guiding students through the cyber sector; discovering what opportunities there are, learning from industry professionals and a diverse range of companies across the globe on a weekly basis and refining their skills using simulated scenarios on Immersive Labs.”
Liam said: “These cyber security workshops we have piloted go beyond things you learn on the syllabus. It’s different and brings students even closer to knowing what working in the sector is really like.”
Computing students Eddie Meanley, 18, and Connor Rosindale, 18, also headed to the conference to give first-hand accounts of what the workshops are like and how it’s shaping and guiding their path to a career in cyber.
Eddie said: “It was great to talk about our experience with these workshops and being at the centre of the cyber security conversation. The kind of things we’re learning are not things the average person would know. Some of these skills and methods we’re learning can only be used in situations where you’re given the authority. Understanding various attack methods means we better understand how to defend against them.”
The workshops have proven to be a well-rounded experience, providing more than just practical knowledge and ‘how to’ sessions. They include sessions that focus on more transferrable skills like ‘Building your skills and your portfolio’ and ‘The importance of CVs and evidence when applying for roles in cyber,’ all sessions that students valued.
Connor said: “It’s always great to have a bigger picture of what you can do and aim for, but also know what alternatives there are in that sector so that you have back up plans of where you want to take your career if you decide a particular area isn’t for you.”
The experience has been the direct insight of the industry itself, and Mike Halliday, director of TechEd Programmes Ltd said: “The South West Cyber Security Cluster selected South Devon College to launch the pilot programme aimed at building the cyber skills pipeline in the South West. TechEd Programmes worked closely with the computing faculty to start delivering workshops in September. We have been overwhelmed with the support of the teachers at the College. Timelines were very tight, but the team went above and beyond to make it happen.
“We have coordinated workshops delivered by local businesses in the field of cyber security and ran a Q&A with the students with the National Cyber Security Centre as a special guest in December. With 20 students attending the weekly workshops, over half of them are already focusing on cyber security careers. This is testament to the value of partnerships between education and industry.”