Government agency devises new approach to help young people develop cyber skills

Skills Development Scotland is working with cyber experts on a new approach to help young people in school develop cyber skills while raising awareness of careers in cyber security. 

Six secondary schools and employers from across Scotland will take part in the trial which will see approximately 120 pupils learn all about penetration testing, more commonly known as “ethical hacking” or “pen testing”.

The cyber experts have been partnered with schools, and will support the teacher to deliver the co-created lesson by talking them through the process of ethically hacking a fictional airline in a virtual environment.    The lesson, which has been fully developed with and approved by teachers, is mapped to the school cyber security curriculum. 

The pupils will learn to perform reconnaissance of the airline’s digital footprint, use collected intelligence to perform a social engineering attack, perform a penetration test and then report back on the results of that test. They will also benefit by hearing directly from experienced industry experts about what it’s really like to work in cyber security .

The programme launches in time for Cyber Scotland Week 2020, and participating schools and employers include:

Claire Gillespie, Digital Technology sector manager for Skills Development Scotland, said: “I’m really excited about this approach which will give learners hands-on experience with real security tools and techniques. But the really exciting part is having the industry experts involved. Sharing their skills, knowledge and real work experiences will be a real inspiration for the next generation of cyber security specialists.

“This is also a great way for cyber experts to benefit from classroom experiences, and who knows, maybe we will encourage some of them to re-train as teachers!”

Claire added: “If this pilot is successful, we not only plan to roll this out to more schools, but we also plan to take it beyond just cyber security and bring other industry experts in to talk about other broader tech related subjects.”

CGI were the first to deliver the new lesson at Bellahouston Academy. Lindsay McGranaghan, Business Unit Leader for CGI in Scotland, said: “CGI is committed to ensuring that the next generation of cyber security specialists have the relevant knowledge and understanding to take advantage of the highly skilled cyber security jobs being created within Scotland. Working in partnership with SDS will allow CGI’s industry experts to share their expertise and work experiences with Scotland’s future cyber security specialists. At the heart of this will be promoting an ethical and safe environment for them to learn the future skills that are in increasing demand within the cyber security industry.”

Ken Muir, Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council concluded: “GTCS are pleased to be involved in partnership working to address the shortage of computing studies teachers across Scotland. The first part of this project, the introduction of computing experts to classroom to support teachers and students to upskills their knowledge and skills in current issues such as Cyber security, is a fantastic opportunity for teachers and students to learn together with support from experts in the field.”