*More than 1,000 free places offered at popular courses delivered across the UK

*Studies suggest 94% of employers fear there is an industry-wide skills shortage

*Female-only courses introduced for the first time in bid to redress gender imbalances

 TECH-SAVVY teens will benefit from a government, education and charity drive to create more than 1,000 free places on cutting-edge courses that aim to reduce the UK’s cyber skills gap.

The popular CyberFirst courses for 14 to 17-year-olds, delivered since 2016 by training experts QA and GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre, working with education charity The Smallpeice Trust,  will see 1,150 free places at 23 five-day courses across the UK in July and August 2018.

A study last year by recruitment website CWJobs found 94% of tech employers believe there is an industry-wide skills shortage, with 80% saying they struggled to fill cyber security roles.

There is a long-standing problem recruiting females to such careers, with women making up just 10% of the global workforce. Barriers to entry can be set up at an early age and a Department for Education report shows that 0.4% of female pupils chose to study computer science at A-Level in 2017, compared with 4.5% of males.

Several girls-only courses have been added to this year’s CyberFirst summer programme to assist with the drive to redress the gender balance within cyber security.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Skills and Growth, said: “CyberFirst is a bold and innovative programme aimed at supporting and developing the UK’s potential cyber security talent and helping to address the cyber skills gap.

“Millennials are arguably the most naturally adept at using technology,” he said. “Most have used internet-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.

“As well as equipping young people with cutting-edge skills, 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.”

Developed by the NCSC, the courses range from the introductory to the advanced and will give students an insight into the world of cyber security, as well as the tools, knowledge and skills required.

Attendees will learn how technology really works, how to secure IT networks and how to protect family members from online threats, among other topics.

Dr Kevin P. Stenson, chief executive of The Smallpeice Trust, said: “It is clear that the UK has insufficient numbers of cyber security experts to meet demand. As technology continues to evolve, that need will only intensify. The simple fact is we need more students coming through and filling these roles.

“These CyberFirst courses aim to provide a fun and compelling learning experience, which will inspire and incentivise young people to consider a rewarding and exciting career in cyber security.”

“Cyber Security careers continue to be dominated by men, and this is something that must change.

“Working through CyberFirst, we hope to attract and inspire more young women to pursue cyber security careers by providing a gateway for young people from all backgrounds to explore the possibilities of working within the sector.”

CyberFirst Defenders will see 14 and 15-year-olds learn about the Internet of Things, securing smart devices and protecting themselves from cyber breaches.

CyberFirst Futures will teach teens aged 15 and 16 about why cyber-attacks occur, securing smart devices and networks, and cloud storage.

CyberFirst Advanced is open to students aged 16 and 17. It includes lessons on cybercrime, protecting digital communications and network vulnerabilities.

There are 1,150 free places available on 23 courses at residential and non-residential locations in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Surrey, Lancaster, Warwick, Gloucestershire and Paisley.

For more information and to register visit or call 01926 333200.