grounds. Someone who is per- haps slightly older can bring great value because they’ve already gained some of those skills,” says Gillespie. Among those attesting to this is Stuart Macdonald of BlueShield IT (see case study). Another example is the new SDS

partnership project launched last year with social enterprise Salute- MyJob, Abertay University, IBM and tech start-up Skillzminer, with the aim of retraining Scottish Armed Forces veterans to help address the significant skills gap in the nation’s cyber security workforce.

The past decade, says Gillespie, has seen a surge in the recogni- tion of the value of apprentice- ships to employers. “Year on year we’ve increased the number of apprenticeship frameworks, so now we have Cyber Security and Data Analytics, for example, which are very much growth areas in Scotland. It’s been an evolving journey as employers are increasingly open to looking at multiple pathways to recruit.” Te diversity of recruits reflects

the plurality of products and ser- vices provided: “Te world is 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men across a whole range of ages, so it’s important that the teams and businesses developing these products and services are equally diverse and represent different career pathways and different backgrounds,” she stresses. From Foundation Apprentice-

ships for secondary school pupils through Modern Apprenticeships, which are open to new or existing employees to Graduate Appren- ticeships delivered in partnership with universities and colleges, SDS is working to address the needs of the 82 per cent of Scot- tish businesses who still find it difficult to recruit people with the right digital skills. Listening to the needs of these

companies and organisations is a cornerstone of how the agency designs its programmes. “We’ve done research on gender and technology and formed an action plan and researched neuro-di- versity and technology and again, have an action plan. Everything the team does is industry-led and we conducted both of these

pieces of work in response to employer demand,” she says. “Technology apprenticeships

are developed in line with what employers tell us they need and might subsequently need and apprenticeships are refreshed to make sure they’re future proofed for employers’ requirements.”

Fifteen universities in Scotland deliver a range of Graduate Ap- prenticeships and, as with all of these, the Cyber Security Appren- ticeship entails a close working relationship between university and employer. “Tere’s support available at all stages to employ- ers, even just at the early days of inducting apprentices to give them guidance,” says Gillespie. “Many companies hit the

ground running as they are mas- sively keen to promote their va- cancies but we are able to help in areas such as where they should recruit, where to post their adverts, their use of language in adverts and promoting their working practices. “Sometimes people don’t

realise that the relatively small changes they make can have a huge impact in terms of the people who apply for the jobs – and also the people who are retained in these jobs.” She’s encouraged by the rec-

ognition that cyber professionals are essential to protect Scotland as a country and, in addition, that everyone needs to be cyber secure on an individual level. “Te Scottish Government and SDS are making sure we are all aware of that responsibility and are work- ing with groups such as Young Scot to ensure that young people know how to look after their passwords and keep themselves safe online.” Gillespie believes that appren-

ticeships bring passionate and motivated talent to employers and help take careers in technol- ogy far beyond the sector itself: “You don’t have to be a doctor or a nurse to work in medicine or a footballer to be part of a top team. You can be an app developer, a data analyst – or a cyber security specialist in many sectors.” l

Case studyStuart Macdonald

Stuart Macdonald is the founder of BlueShield IT which provides IT security solutions to businesses. He started the Graduate Apprenticeship in Cyber Security at Glasgow Caledonian University in October 2020. When he heard about the scheme, Macdonald, 50, saw the BSc Honours degree as an ideal way to reinforce his company’s commitment to cyber security. With previous experience, he joined the second year of the four- year course. His lectures, tutorials and semi-

nars are currently delivered online one day a week and he studies further in the evenings. “It’s fantastic, I’ve been in IT coming up for 30 years and I’d say every day is a school day – it genuinely is because I’ve learnt so much. I’m starting to learn things in depth and that makes a huge difference especially when you are talking to clients who see that I understand all the complexities cyber security involves.

“I’ve learnt new programming skills and I’m using tools I’d heard of but not appreciated their full benefits, so there is great hands- on experience as well as on the theory side.”

It’s also helped his confidence.

“I recently did a presentation to more than 30 people from the Centre for Engineering Educa- tion and Development. I’d turned it down last year but going to university has boosted my confi- dence in my abilities and what I’m learning.”

Case studyErnesto Arias Aldana

Ernesto Arias Aldana is in his third year of the Cyber Security apprenticeship at the Open University. Arias, 35, who works at Dundee & Angus College, was already doing an OU computing and IT degree when the opportunity appeared. “My manager was very sup-

portive and encouraging,” he says. “At the time, there wasn’t a specific cyber security role within my department so I thought that it would fit nicely and would bring me opportunities to get experi- ence and help my colleagues. “As a result, I started get-

ting involved in dealing with cyber threats, conducting digital forensics, cyber investigations and vulnerability assessments, evaluating new security solutions and their implementation and working with industry compliance and security standards. “Thanks to the professional modules, I was able to produce useful documentation, start a security-related project and study

additional courses, such as a hands-on ethical hacking course.” When Arias’s organisation

suffered a cyberattack last year he conducted an investigation and helped build more secure systems. He believes his apprenticeship

has assisted his professional development. “It’s also helped with getting recognition from colleagues and senior manage- ment, which led to my first cyber security role in November 2020.”


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