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Employers in desperate need of cyber graduates, warns University expert

A University of Gloucestershire cyber expert has warned that employers around Gloucestershire and beyond are finding it increasingly difficult to find the technical graduates needed to meet growing demands in areas such as cyber security, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

Professor Kamal Bechkoum, Head of the School of Computing and Engineering at the University, says it is vital that more young people are attracted into the industry amid reports of nearly one million vacancies across the UK.

Professor Bechkoum added: “Naturally, higher education institutions including University of Gloucestershire train new and experienced workers in the specific skills they need, but the widespread lack of homegrown graduates considering technical pathways often results in industry having to search for and recruit candidates from overseas.

“It is important that universities and industry make young people aware that they have the opportunity to develop long, rewarding and secure futures.”

An analysis of the current employment market shows that average entry-level positions in cyber security start at up to £35,000 per year, rising to £70,000; Robotics graduates can start at £31,000, rising to £58,500, and AI graduates may start on £45,000 per year, while many experienced workers can go on to make upwards of £70,000

But between January to May 2022, there were approximately 870,000 technology and digital job vacancies open across the UK as demand for tech products and services hiring in the sector rises to heights not seen in the past decade.

This figure doesn’t take into account that the majority of the rest of the workforce needs to be upskilled to meet the needs of the digitised workplace.

Professor Bechkoum said: “Over the past year, the demand for cyber security professionals has increased by 60 per cent and, as a result of the pandemic in 2020, many industries have seen an acceleration in digital transformation and remote working, resulting in an increased risk of cyber-attacks.

“Further to this, with the World Economic Forum is currently predicting that 42 per cent of jobs will need upskilling or reskilling to meet future technological demands, the potential obstacles for organisations is huge – particularly in the important areas of cyber, AI, robotics and automation.

“Demand for talented people who can think outside of the box is paramount, and at the same time, finding and developing the right graduates is increasingly important.”

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, runs a certified degree programme to help set a high standard of cyber security teaching across higher education and enable students to make informed decisions about the range of courses on offer at UK universities.

In June, it was announced that the NCSC had provisionally certified the master’s degree in Cyber Security delivered by the School of Computing and Engineering at University of Gloucestershire.

The announcement came hard on the heels of news that Gloucestershire had been chosen by the DIT to be showcased as a world-leading cyber cluster through the High Potential Opportunities (HPO) programme.