The Cyber Retraining Academy


The Government-backed SANS Institute Cyber Retraining Academy will train people from all walks of life to become industry-ready cyber professionals in ten weeks.

A former bartender, psychiatrist and journalist were among those selected for the new Cyber Retraining Academy.

Potential employers can track students’ real-time progress via a unique online portal and free recruitment fairs on the 23rd February and 6th March will allow them to hire the students to defend their firms against growing online attacks.

The Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock, has previously said this initiative is a “a key part” of a £1.9 billion Government drive to make Britain safer online, by plugging a major cyber skills shortage.

The students will begin the intensive ten-week course and learn in-demand cyber skills as part of a Government drive to help businesses defend themselves against the growing cyber threat. The candidates will be trained by leading industry practitioners.

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Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock said “I congratulate all the students selected following an extremely competitive application process and encourage them to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.”

“They will bring a diverse range of skills and experiences from different walks of life to the fight against cyber threats and attacks.”

“We are investing £1.9 billion over five years to make the UK the safest place to live and do business online and this academy is a key part of that work.”

The candidates were selected from around 4,000 applications from across the country and come from diverse backgrounds. Roughly half are from non-IT backgrounds.

All candidates went through a rigorous six-stage selection process, starting with a pre-qualification assessment, then an application form, an aptitude assessment, a telephone interview and pre-qualification, and, finally, a face-to-face interview.

The pilot course, delivered by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in partnership with information security training provider SANS Institute, is funded by the Government as part of the National Cyber Security Strategy and was created in response to growing cyber threats to British businesses and increasing industry demand for cyber security professionals.

The students will complete hands-on exercises in real-world scenarios such as how to respond to a virus outbreak, study the ‘psychology’ of hackers, build a watertight business network and learn how to help firms tackle the most common threats.

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The students will start learning computing and security fundamentals. Once they have these foundations in place, they will progress onto more technical subjects, including hacking tools and techniques. They will be taught by prominent security practitioners from SANS.

The training programme is demanding and will involve a weekly exam, technology labs and assessments.

Classes include how to hack into an Internet of Things (IoT) connected device. Graduates will also leave with a Global Information Assurance Certification, which not only tests a candidate’s knowledge but also their ability to put that knowledge into practice in the real world.

At the time of the recruitment fair, candidates would be half way through their training, including completion of the technology and security fundamentals course, and will be able to share test scores with prospective employers.

SANS’ previous UK Cyber Academies have retrained people from law graduates to parking attendants and supplied qualified cyber experts to prominent organisations including NATO and Airbus.

UK managing director at SANS Institute ‎Stephen Jones said “Employers can be reassured these candidates have already proven themselves to be exceptionally talented. The students successfully completed a six stage, highly competitive, assessment process. They have all demonstrated they have the right aptitude to excel in a cyber-security career and will now receive world class training.”

“We are pleased to see students from a wide range of backgrounds, not just traditional IT roles. The cyber security profession requires a wide range of skills and, as this selection process has shown, there are budding security experts not just in the IT sector, but outside of it too.”

Catherine Irvine, senior business and development manager, security operations centre enterprise and cyber security at Fujitsu is an admirer of this scheme and sees real benefits.

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“The Academy is an innovative way to develop the skills of individuals in the techniques, tactics and processes needed to fight cyber-crime.

“It gives individuals that might not previously have thought they had the aptitude for a career in cyber security the opportunity to develop their talent which in turn provides organisations such as Fujitsu a great opportunity to meet and hopefully employ people with these valuable skills which are in short supply.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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