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by Arkadiusz Kotowski, Palo Alto Networks
18 February 2021
Associate feature: Skills, skills, skills...


Associate feature: Skills, skills, skills...

Cybersecurity skills development is top of the agenda for most organisations in some shape or form, be that running internal awareness programmes, boosting technical capabilities, through to supporting external cybersecurity skills programmes.

With today’s threats growing in volume and sophistication, it is more critical than ever to equip schools, colleges, and universities with the latest cybersecurity curriculum to ensure our future generations have the necessary skills to prevent cyberattacks.

Government and industry must work in partnership to develop the skills ecosystem. It is for governments to set the overarching policy foundations that address the skills gap, and industry to act as a force multiplier and develop tangible initiatives that advance the cybersecurity skills ecosystem.  

In fact, the Scottish Government has been doing precisely this, leading the charge in addressing the cybersecurity skills shortage through the learning and skills activities sitting under its Cyber Resilience Strategy. 

In particular, cyber resilience is now part of Scotland’s 3 to 18 curriculum and cybersecurity careers are promoted via various initiatives and programmes, such as the Cyber Christmas Lectures, the CyberFirst programme and through school- and college-based cyber security qualifications. 

CyberScotland Week sees the publication of the new Strategic Framework for a Cyber Resilient Scotland.

Alongside this, the Scottish Government has announced new actions to develop learning and skills, including a strong focus on further developing a strong and inclusive skills pipeline, and involving industry in this at all levels.

As Scotland celebrates Cyber Scotland Week in February, Palo Alto Networks commends the initiatives the Scottish Government have been driving and looks forward to contributing  to them further in 2021. 

However, it is not just governments that have a role to play in fostering cybersecurity skills, the private sector also must take action. 

From a company perspective, Palo Alto Networks is dedicating significant resources to help schools, colleges and universities address the critical shortage of cybersecurity professionals.

Our Cybersecurity Academy programme has been running for several years and exists to equip the next generation of students with hands-on cybersecurity knowledge and skills they’ll need to keep pace with the ever-changing global cyberthreat landscape and learn best practices for preventing cyberattacks.

In the six years since the programme launched, it has grown to have more than 900 partner institutions in more than 71 countries worldwide.

The programme provides cybersecurity courseware, certifications, faculty training, instructional resources and next-generation security platform lab technology at no cost to university, secondary school or postsecondary academic institutions.

Students learn cybersecurity fundamentals, network security, cloud security and how a security operations centre (SOC) works via the hands-on curriculum. 

To date, we have partnered with 38 academic institutions in the UK, six of them are in Scotland, and provided approximately 600 firewalls across Europe, and the numbers are growing.  

One of our Academy partners, Glasgow Clyde College, have become true ambassadors for the programme. Working in partnership with the college, we provided all the required equipment, curriculum and instructor training to ensure that Glasgow Clyde College could deliver meaningful and current cybersecurity training for its students.

It focuses on a number of the key cybersecurity challenges facing us today, and includes topics such encryption, network and application level attacks and role/application access controls.

The partnership has had a number of notable highlights, such as when one of the students was selected as a member of the two-person Team UK to compete for the Cyber Security world title in WorldSkills 2019.

The WorldSkills cybersecurity competition, which Palo Alto Networks sponsors, tests participants abilities in an array of cybersecurity disciplines and focuses on all the essential requirements for a successful career as a cyber security analyst within any industry. 

Building on the competition theme, we also ran a Palo Alto Networks Academy ‘capture the flag’ hackathon in 2019, where students were given a series of challenges that tested their understanding of cryptography, web applications and networking.

Abertay University, one of our more proactive Academy members, participated in the challenge, along with 19 academic institutions from across the UK.  

The Academy programme not only equips students with the cybersecurity fundamentals, it also provides them with real work experience and provides an opportunity to practice the tasks involved in a job role they could find themselves performing in the future.

According to one of our partners, City of Glasgow College, this is one of the main benefits of the programme; it gives students the most realistic experience they could hope for in the classroom, without having to worry about the pressures associated with the real world. 

Palo Alto Networks is eager to work with policymakers across the UK to develop the appropriate educational and training building blocks that will enable us to have the right level of skills needed to secure the UK.  

Arkadiusz Kotowski, is a project manager for the Cybersecurity Academy Programme at Palo Alto Networks. This article was sponsored by Palo Alto Networks.

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