Scotland’s national skills agency has launched a new programme to equip college students on non-technology courses such as hairdressing or joinery with the knowledge they need to combat the rise in cybercrime.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has collaborated with Dundee and Angus College to develop a cyber security module which will be incorporated into a range of non-technology courses and rolled out to nine colleges.

The move will lead to more than 500 students a year leaving further education with a recognised cyber qualification.

The new course, which was launched to coincide with CyberScotland Week, will see the likes of trainee beauty therapists, farmers, joiners, hairdressers, nursery staff, sports professionals, teachers and even language learners study cyber security as part of their wider course.

By targeting students that study non-tech subjects, SDS and the Scottish Government hope to equip people with the cyber skills necessary to better protect themselves and their employers or businesses online.

Kate Forbes, the Scottish Government’s finance secretary, said: “The pilot was delivered as part of the implementation of our strategic framework for a cyber resilient Scotland. The fast-paced digital transformation of the world we live in means that cyber resilience is no longer just the responsibility of technology specialists or IT departments. And it’s not just big companies that get hacked. Any organisation that uses online digital technology can be at risk.

 “We can never guarantee protection from all types of cyber attack, but this project will help to increase future workers’ knowledge and skills to withstand and reduce the risk and impact of security breaches.”

Dundee & Angus College was inspired to help teach non-tech students about the growing threat of cybercrime after it suffered an online attack in 2020.

James Oliver, head of computing at Dundee & Angus College, said: “The attack we suffered was devastating. Hackers demanded the entire contents of our bank account to release student work and teaching plans.

“We effectively had to rebuild our IT systems from scratch. By making sure as many people as possible are aware of cyber security basics, we hope to stop others from experiencing what is a distressing and expensive risk to any organisation whether large or large or small, commercial or charity!”

Nearly 90 social science students completed the cyber skills unit which lead to an SCQF Level 4 qualification.

Oliver added: “The student feedback on the pilot showed they had a positive and enjoyable experience, and perception of cyber security had changed. Students really valued the new subject, and could understand the application to their own circumstances. We look forward to working with our counterparts at  these other colleges to replicate this success.”