700 schoolgirls come together to be inspired by cybercareers

cyber security

Over 700 girls from schools across the North West came together for CyberFirst Empower North West, a series of events that encourage 8th grade girls to get into STEM subjects by introducing them to inspiring people who work in tech and cybernetic roles today.

Part of a major series, the first two events took place at Salford’s AJ Bell Stadium and Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park earlier this month, where the girls had the opportunity to meet people working at the cutting-edge cybersecurity and technology, including IBM, KPMG UK. , GCHQ, Phoenix, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman and BT.

Organized by IN4 Group, the operators of HOST, the house of skills and technology, the Empower events are part of CyberFirst Schools & Colleges – an initiative of the National Cyber ​​Security Center (NCSC), part of GCHQ , which aims to encourage a diverse range of young people to pursue careers in the cyber sector. One of the main goals of the program is to encourage girls to be interested in technology during their school years. It aims to engage more than 500 schools across the region over the next two years.

This is part of a larger ambition to ensure local youth have the skills they want for the thousands of job opportunities in cybersecurity, technology and intelligence in the years to come – thanks to the National Cyber ​​Force move to Lancashire and a £5 billion investment. in the region being an important step in the creation of a “cybernetic corridor” through the north of England.

The first two Empower North West events saw students take part in a series of interactive sessions, live demos, hackathons and competitions, as well as a decryption challenge hosted by GCHQ. All designed to elevate career aspirations and make the world of cybersecurity relevant for the next generation. Other activities included working as part of an incident response team for a fictional supermarket that had been targeted by hackers; and using Microsoft Minecraft coding technology to make animals move and learn about the environment by interacting with Frozen Planet II stories through gameplay.

Inspirational people the girls were able to meet included Jasmine Taylor, Head of Cyber ​​Defense at KPMG UK, and Nicola Meek, Head of Education at Microsoft. The two spoke at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford.

Jasmine’s advice to girls was “be curious”.

She said: “I got here completely by accident. I knew I was interested in science, but I was also interested in singing and dancing. I had no idea jobs like mine existed.

“Choosing what subjects to study for your GCSEs is a big decision, but I urge you to be curious and think about what interests you. Keep your options open and research whatever you find interesting.

HOST pilots NCSC CyberFirst Schools in the North West

Nicola Meek added that events like Empower North West are key to “empowering young people to change the world”. She continued: ”We need more girls at the table – and more young people. ”

Only 35% of STEM students in higher education are women – and just 22% of the UK’s cybersecurity workforce is represented by women – events like Empower North West are key to helping achieve a better gender balance.

Rob Hegarty, Deputy Head of Montgomery Academy in Blackpool, said: “CyberFirst Empower North West has been a fantastic opportunity for students to be exposed to a range of technology careers. The event educated them further about careers in cyber and wider technology through a range of high quality career providers including GCHQ, IBM and NCC Group.

“The activities were all really interactive and based on real-life examples of roles in a range of tech careers, leaving them excited for the next stage of their education!”

Lauren Monks, Director of Professional Education Programs at IN4 Group, operator of HOST, said: “If girls and young women can’t see it, they can’t be – and that’s where initiatives like CyberFirst Schools & Colleges come into play.

“It’s time to show girls what this industry is all about – make it feel relevant to them and help them see it as a path they can follow.”

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