The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has launched a course in Scotland that will make state-of-the-art cyber security courses available free of charge to the nation’s young people.

Hosted by the UK’s largest STEM education charity, The Smallpiece Trust, the three CyberFirst student courses will give 14-17-year-olds the chance to learn how technology works, and how to exercise better security practice in the online domain.

The CyberFirst courses have received accreditation from the Scottish Qualifications Authority. Further course activities will help students recognise cyber threats, put together a secure computer network and use open source intelligence methodology. Candidates will also develop teamwork and leadership skills.

Chief executive of The Smallpiece Trust, Dr Kevin P. Stenson, said:

“The exponential growth in mobile devices and the increasing rate in which everyone relies, in one way or another, on internet-enabled systems is changing the face of the UK workforce.

“The cyber security sector is set to be one of the fastest growing in the coming years, and it will rely on people from all backgrounds and abilities to contribute to finding the solutions to our cyber challenges.

“These courses have a technological slant, but the element that has made the courses so popular over the past three years is the chance for teens in Scotland to collaborate together and solve problems in a fun environment, working with some of the brightest, young cyber security professionals in the country.”

The course falls within a wider drive on behalf of authorities in the UK to meet growing need for a workforce with improved cyber security skills. Research by cyber security training company, SANS, estimates there will be around 24 billion devices in the Internet of Things by the start of 2020.

Frost & Sullivan analysts say such a rate of growth could produce a cyber skills gap of 1.8 million people by 2022.

Led by the NCSC, CyberFirst went live in 2016 as part of a GCHQ programme to give younger people a leg up into the world of online protection.

NCSC deputy director for cyber skills and growth, Chris Ensor, said:

“CyberFirst is a bold and innovative programme aimed at supporting and developing the UK’s cyber security talent and helping to address the cyber skills gap.

“Millennials are arguably the most naturally adept at using technology. Most have used web-enabled devices from a very early age and have an instinctive understanding of how to use them but not necessarily how they work and how to protect them.

“These courses will help prepare them for a possible career in cyber security and a role in making Britain the safest place to live and work online.”