A former bartender and a military intelligence operator have become the first graduates to be offered roles at leading cyber-security companies after graduating from the HM Government-backed Cyber Retraining Academy with flying colours.
The academy, a ground-breaking initiative funded by the Government's National Cyber Security Programme, was launched to fast track the next generation of security experts and help defend the nation against cyber-attacks. The programme commenced on 23 January and concludes this week with a graduation ceremony in London.
Conor Kelly, a former bartender and Joel Potts, who studied Spanish at university, are amongst those to be offered jobs at world-renown organisations in advance of the programme finishing.
Fifty-five of the UK's most talented amateurs were originally chosen from a nationwide search to undergo the academy's free training programme. Trained by leading industry practitioners from SANS Institute, the students have mastered a cross-section of in-demand cyber-skills and have graduated with two separate Global Information Assurance Certifications, an internationally renowned cyber-security qualification.
Despite having no previous experience of cyber-security, students have graduated with outstanding exam results, many achieving 90 percent or above in their GIAC tests, placing them in the top five percent of all GIAC students worldwide.
The programme was designed to connect course graduates to industry and, through an online portal unique to the Cyber Retraining Academy, offer leading UK cyber-security employers a chance to track students' performance and progress. Graduates are now either interviewing for, or have been offered jobs with major organisations, including the NCA, JP Morgan, Fujitsu, Amazon, e2e, Huawei and the DFID (Dept for International Development).
During the programme, students completed hands-on exercises in real-world scenarios, including how to respond to virus outbreaks, studied the “psychology” of hackers, built watertight business networks, found vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) devices and learnt how to help firms tackle the most common threats.
Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock said: "We are determined to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone and make the UK the safest place to do business online. We have recently published our Digital Strategy which sets out how we will achieve this and, through our National Cyber Security Strategy, have committed to invest £1.9 billion in cyber-security over five years. The Cyber Retraining Academy is a key part of this work and it's fantastic to see the first students graduate and begin to move into cyber-security roles in industry. They will bring a diverse range of skills and experiences from different walks of life to help the fight against cyber-threats and attacks."
Stephen Jones, UK managing director at the SANS Institute said: “The Cyber Retraining Academy has been a huge success. Our assessment process uncovered more than 50 individuals with no prior cyber-security experience, but who possessed the traits required to succeed in the profession. Now, after eight weeks of intensive training they are qualified and ready to embark on a new career path, working in vital roles within many of the UK's most important organisations."