An ambitious project involving Newcastle College, NCG Direct – the college’s distance learning division for online qualifications – and regional businesses ranging from SMEs to multinationals to improve cyber security higher skills qualifications.
A breakfast seminar involving around 25 employers sought feedback on the appetite for blended learning and online delivery of the FdSc Cyber Security programme, which could be supplied globally; interest in Higher Apprenticeships; and which professional qualifications would be relevant to employers.
Newcastle College focused on higher level cyber security as one of the North East LEP’s smart specialisation areas that are part of the Strategic Economic Plan to bring more and better jobs to the region.
Identifying which professional qualifications employers are most interested in and seeking their input towards developing new, industry-relevant courses was key. Newcastle College is continuing to work with employers at regular specialist cyber security forums.
Rob Wraith, IT and project management curriculum leader, said:
It fed into the way the industry is going, with regard to cyber security as a whole, and our ability to reach out to learners who are not necessarily able to attend one or two days a week at college because of working commitments.
Businesses attending the college’s breakfast event ranged in size from app developer Hedgehog Lab to Virgin Money. The seminar heard from Newcastle Building Society about hiring difficulties and employers assessed the cyber security modules offered as part of the college’s digital degrees.
It’s definitely given us food for thought and aligned us a lot closer with industry to develop our foundation degrees, provide more potential work placements and talks for students. It’s in our DNA to bring in industry to talk about qualifications – and if they want new talent, the first place they’ll come to is the one where they’ve been involved. The outcomes have been very beneficial on both sides and it’s bridged the gap between us and them. We’ve forged some deeper relationships and it’s given the opportunity for students to get work ready – turning up on first day of work and knowing what they’re doing.
As a result, three new students are potentially signed up to start a cyber security Foundation Degree in January.
The money from the HLHE initiative meant the college could organise a larger event and develop the resources for it.
It opened those doors. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.
The employer’s view:
Newcastle-based Nomad Digital, which is the world's leading provider of passenger and fleet connectivity solutions to the railway industry, attended the seminar to share its thoughts on the need for higher level skills.
Malcolm Mason, head of information security, said:
There’s a little bit of dearth in cyber security skills across all regions within the UK at the moment and it was useful to provide some feedback that may enhance the training programme for the college.
Nomad are very much at the forefront of technology and that comes with its own security challenges. We need to ensure we have the right people within the business with right skills to hit the ground running, although we do place a lot of emphasis on aptitude as well – we’re not averse to finding right fit for Nomad`s culture and getting them skilled up.
This was the first time his department has engaged with a college and he is keen to offer his input towards developing the cyber security curriculum for the future.
The format on the day was very good, good interactive working groups with a lot of ideas and feedback from all delegates being generated. Ultimately, the output will be a larger pool of people getting the right skills that are transferable to a business environment, and hopefully the feedback everyone provided will help shape that.”