IRM boss says government is to blame for cyber-skills gap

IRM CEO Charles White says the reason there is a cyber-skills gap in the UK is due to the onerous security checks imposed by government and its inability to introduce more appropriate procedures.

The ever-widening cyber-skills gap is going to mean by 2020, we're going to be short of 400k engineers, according to Bob Nowil, chair of the Cyber-Security Challenge.
The ever-widening cyber-skills gap is going to mean by 2020, we're going to be short of 400k engineers, according to Bob Nowil, chair of the Cyber-Security Challenge.

IRM CEO Charles White told a roundtable in the House of Commons last night that the reason there is a cyber-skills gap in the UK is onerous security checks imposed by government and its inability to introduce more appropriate procedures.

Sounding impassioned, White ad-libed, “Everything to do with government chokes off the cyber-skills growth.”

Frustrated by IRM's inability to fill graduate roles which are being paid £35k each, White went on to criticise ‘a major cyber-security university course' which he says is, “mostly taken by foreign nationals.” This means that they are unable to then become Security Cleared (SC)and/or Developed Vetting (DV) checked, to work with IRM's government clients.

IRM itself is based in Cheltenham, and regularly works with GCHQ, for example.

White's frustrations presumably arise from the fact that, for example, to become cleared to DV level, the person being vetted will have had to be a resident of the UK for 10 years. It is this level of clearance required to work with MI5/6.  

White said that “the MoD currently has about 5,500 hours of work to do,” and explained that this is because, “there are roughly 400 people in the UK who are qualified to do it.”

Originally gathering to debate whether or not the board cares about cyber-security, delegates concluded that it all comes down to ‘the people' and issues such as angry/malicious insiders.  

Lord James Arbuthnot, who sponsored the session, hosted in the House of Commons, challenged White and said that the idea that government is slow to react to technological change and is bureaucratic is an old idea. Arbuthnot asked White, “I want to know what industry is going to do about it?”

And likewise, SCMagazineUK.com asked White if he has any potential solutions to the problem.

David Cazalet, co-founder of IRM, explained that IRM is currently working with GCHQ and Warwick University to run its own path to accreditation. Not much further information on the topic was shared with the table.

One delegate at the table concluded, “they have essentially commercialised a function of government.”