We spent a day working on cyber puzzles with Manchester’s best and brightest 11-15 year olds. Here’s what we learnt.
Most of the children in school today will go on to take jobs that haven’t been invented yet. This might sound familiar, but that’s because it’s been the case for some time now. Jobs in cyber security, computing and data analytics were pretty few and far between when Applied Intelligence’s predecessor organisation was founded in 1971. Yet the technologies and threats around today will change the job market our children enter tomorrow beyond recognition.
There are two ways to look at this change: fight against its effects, as the followers of Ned Ludd did in the 1810s and Captain Swing did in the 1830s, or embrace it, as so many people who flocked to the new manufactories in Manchester and elsewhere in search of a better life did in the years before and since.
It’s the latter that CyberFirst aims to emulate: our country and our society is going to need more and more cyber security experts in the coming years, be it to protect our way of life and national interests or to defend our organisations and businesses. The people that come in to this profession need to be diverse – nothing’s worse than an institutional mindset in cyber security. There’s also a moral imperative that we and our partners - the National Cyber Security Centre, GCHQ, and Manchester Digital – hold dear: the need to encourage social mobility and recruit the best and brightest regardless from as diverse a background as possible.
This is a long way round to talking about the event we held last Saturday under the banner of CyberFirst at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum: 100 Year 8 and 9 pupils took part in challenges and puzzles to stretch their imagination, fire up their enthusiasm for technology and innovation and show that there’s a bright future for them in cyber security in the UK.
A couple of things struck me as a result of that day: firstly, I got to meet some seriously talented 11-15 year olds who reaffirmed my commitment to our day job. Secondly, there is a social good to what we want to do. Talking to the parents and guardians of these children, it was clear they understood the part played by the organisations behind this event – and the direct effect on their lives that resulted from it.
Understanding and tackling the threats that face our society is difficult, and Manchester has not been insulated from the harm that some wish on us all. Preparing and equipping future generations with the means to protect their peers is well worth doing.
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Victoria Knight is a Strategic Business Director at BAE Systems