A work placement is as important for today's computer science students as a degree.
Meeting final year computer science students at the University of Surrey, SC Magazine found that some students were considering masters and post-graduate degrees, while others saw a career option in programming and network management rather than security.
Sitting down with two groups of four students from the course, a mix of both British and overseas and male and female students, some said that they were considering a career in security, while others were unclear on where their future lay.
One student told SC Magazine that they needed to look at further education "to get a career" and qualifications "add a value" and an employer would look at it on a candidate's CV. The university currently offers a three-year course, with a year spent on a work placement.
Another student said that they had enjoyed their paid work placement at a defence contractor and had lined up a job with them already. They said: “I enjoyed it and it was very interesting work and I definitely want to go back there.”
When asked where others would consider working, one mentioned a major security consultancy "because they always look like they are enjoying themselves", while another said that they would consider a job in programming when they left university, as their work placement "was good experience in the real world".
Others said that there were numerous opportunities, but would consider their options upon graduation when they planned to find a job and had the advantage of experience. However one student admitted that the work placement year "meant that the degree was pretty pointless as you can learn and explore what you want to do".
They continued: “An internship is the way in, they don't care if you have a degree. With an internship, it is more value than a degree and you get more experience, you have got to try different areas and find what is right for you.”
Students also told former Eli Lilly CISO and Jericho Forum board member Adrian Seccombe, who teaches the security modules in the course, that one security module was not really enough and that they "had not learned enough as we need skills".
Seccombe, who retires from this position this summer before moving to work on other initiatives, said that he would feed the remarks back to the course professor, and said that when he was at Eli Lilly, it would accept university placement people, as the value that they contribute was worthwhile. “Whether they were doing web application development or security administration, it was about giving them value,” he said.
Asked if universities were doing enough to meet the skills gap, Seccombe said that the skills gap works both ways – that gap is management not knowing what they are missing, and the other that people can bring in.