SANS Institute Cyber Academy
SANS Institute Cyber Academy

Thirty-two individuals – ranging in age from 18-58 – have been confirmed to attend an eight-week intensive training course at the SANS Cyber Academy in Cardiff, starting 1 September.

The places on the residential course are fully funded by SANS which expects to recoup the costs from employers eager to snap up the programme graduates. The costs are said to be comparable to the amount an IT department would expect to spend getting new starters up to speed, a process that usually takes two years.

The students were chosen from an initial pool of 24,000 people who took an online skills and aptitude assessment earlier this year. From this pool, 200 candidates were invited to apply for up to 40 places at the Institute's Cyber Academy.

Ninety percent of the students are men, reflecting the broader demographics of the IT industry, according to Steve Jones, UK managing director of SANS. Experience in the IT industry varies from working in a high street tech store and IT helpdesk to recent IT graduates and those with years of experience in IT who are looking to move across to security. In addition, there are a few cyber-security hobbyists who currently work in unrelated fields, he said.

One successful candidate is Matthew Tellier, 31, who holds an MSc in computer science but has found his career path diverging from that. “The work I ended up doing was interesting but I always wanted to get back into the IT industry and cyber-security was always interesting,” he said.

Like many others, he responded to an email from the government's Cyber Challenge mailing list which mentioned the SANS Cyber Academy. “I was surprised by the number of people who took the test, and was delighted to see I ranked so highly,” Tellier said. “Despite my academic background, I thought I would be more out of date than I was, having not been active in the industry for a few years.”

The test threw up a few surprising questions, he said. “I was expecting it to be largely maths based but there were a few left-field questions thrown in there, questions about the chain of custody of evidence which was obviously quite far removed from any question I was expecting,” he said.

“It was quite broad so it gave us a flavour of what SANS was heading toward – they were interested in more than just the technical aspects and took more of a, dare I say, holistic view,” he said.

The networking with other students has already begun. “We already have a discussion group going,” he said. “It's a very exciting and diverse background.”

Another student on the course is Alex Holland, 21, currently studying law at King's College London. Holland has been interested in computer security from a young age, volunteering on internet forums specialising in network security and malware removal.

After leaving school, Holland decided to study law but says he never lost his interest in computing.