Demand for cyber security qualifications ‘skyrockets’

SQA courses are paving the way for school and college students to enter a rapidly expanding tech industry

Since its launch in 2017, the Scottish Qualifications Author- ity (SQA) has seen interest and demand skyrocket for its National Progression Awards (NPA) in Cyber Security, at levels 4 to 6 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifica- tions Framework (SCQF). And according to Alistair Wylie,

Head of Qualifications – Technol- ogy, Engineering, and Construc- tion at SQA - it is easy to see why the course has struck a chord with schools and colleges keen to offer young people the chance to hone valuable digital skills. “We’re talking about a topic

that is of fundamental impor- tance. It impacts on every single person,” he said. “Te demand for skilled individuals who are able to share knowledge and experience of cyber security, and add value to potential future employers is huge.” Last year, the number of young

people achieving an NPA in Cyber Security grew by over 40%, and already this year there are over 1,000 candidates studying the course in schools and colleges across the country. Bobby Elliott, Qualifications

Manager at SQA, said the appeal of the NPA is the nature of the topics taught. “No other school-level course

offers candidates the chance to take on these topics – Data Secu- rity, Digital Forensics, and Ethical Hacking – or opens candidates up to the opportunities that could be available to them,” he said. Scott Hunter was part of the

team that developed the NPA, and has seen first-hand how young people have benefitted from undertaking the course. Hunter,

Principal Teacher of Comput- ing at Kyle Academy in Ayr, said: “Two pupils from my first class to complete the course have since gone on to university to study Ethical Hacking. Without the NPA giving them an insight into that world, I suspect those pupils wouldn’t be where they are now.” Hunter added: “Te course

provides fantastic opportunities for young people to develop their problem solving skills. “We worked with Developing

the Young Workforce Ayrshire, Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce, and the Prince’s Trust to identify local start-ups who could benefit from receiving advice about how to protect their businesses from online threats. “In October, the pupils delivered

workshops to the start-ups advis- ing them on a number of issues

including how to manage their own and their customers’ data, how to write a firewall, and how to manage their digital footprint.” Hunter said: “Te students have

also worked with pupils at our local primary schools to talk to the children there about Internet safety. Te students are adding vital soft-skills to their bank of knowledge and experience, add- ing value to their learning.”

The data has shown strong support for cyber security as a dedicated subject but how is SQA planning to expand on its success in delivering comprehensive courses for young people in this field? Elliot added: “We now have

fantastic off-the-shelf learning and teaching resources available to schools and colleges, mean- ing the course is now easier to deliver, thanks to special funding from the Scottish Government’s Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland. We also launched the Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Cyber Security, meaning the programme is now gearing to- wards getting candidates ready to access the work place. “Currently three colleges –

No other school- level course offers candidates the chance to take on these topics or opens candidates up to the opportunities that could be available to them


West College Scotland, City of Glasgow, and Fife – are delivering the programme, and we’re busy finalising the Higher National Diploma (HND) and hope to have it available in August this year. “Once the HND is available,

we’ll have opened up routes into employment within the cyber security sector that was tradi- tionally only available to those who had completed degree level computing programmes.” Cameron Wylie, HNC Cyber

Security student at West College Scotland, said: “I got attracted to the HNC Cyber Security when I took the NPA while in fifth year at high school. I’ve applied to do

the HND Cyber Security and I’m going to go on to university after- wards. Te pathway is very useful – the NPA helped lead me on to what I needed to know to do the HNC, and I’m sure the HNC will help me with my HND studies. I think the HND will link well with university, and then employment afterwards.”

SQA is also working on a Professional Development Award (PDA) in Cyber Security at SCQF levels 7, 8, and 9, which will help those already in relevant employ- ment broaden their skills, or even help them make the transition into a new career. Available dur- ing 2020, the PDA will be the latest step in widening access to careers and learning opportuni- ties within cyber security. Alistair Wylie added: “By ex-

panding our suite of cyber secu- rity qualifications, we are helping to address the well-publicised skills shortages within the sector. We’ve worked with leading aca- demics, employers, and industry specialists at every stage of each qualification’s development to make sure the skills, knowledge, and experiences candidates acquire are credible, relevant, and valuable. “By doing so, we are meeting our

responsibilities to provide schools, colleges, employers and training providers – and thereby candidates at all levels – with the opportuni- ties to succeed within this exciting and growing sector.” l

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