20 Jan 2023
by Toby Barnard PGCE MSc BEng(Hons)

Preparing for emerging threats through learning (Guest blog by QA Ltd)

Guest blog by Toby Barnard PGCE MSc BEng(Hons), Managing Director Government Learning at QA Ltd. #NatSec2023


Almost all businesses are continually investing in their technology to gain a competitive edge. But this technology is ultimately useless if you don’t know how to use it. Applying learning to national security’s emerging threats is vital to equip people with the skills to understand and exploit technologies, methods and methodologies. Investing in learning as well as the technology itself enables improved application and a more agile approach to predicting outcomes. This is achieved through building learning fundamentals before further exploiting the technology to gain the advantage over other actors.

Current Situation

While Europe has seen a return of traditional warfare on its territories in the Ukraine, a number of new approaches are being used, including attacking underwater gas pipelines. Ukraine’s cyber resilience has been built over many years of sustained attacks, which has reduced Russia’s impact. There has also been unprecedented use of drones in different roles, from both sides. This has moved away from just intelligence gathering and targeting to “kamikaze” drone attacks. This increased use of technology to generate cyber and physical attacks threatens the whole of Europe, including the UK. We must make sure we’re as prepared as possible to weather a long-term increase in cyber-attacks as a result of Russia’s aggression. To do this, we must invest in the skills necessary to get the best out of existing and emerging cyber security technology. To emphasise this, the UK Government has reported that 39% of businesses in 2022 identified a Cyber-attack with 31% estimating that they were attacked at least once a week. If we are to successfully navigate this increasing threat well-developed digital skill training is key.

The Ukraine has well practiced Cyber resilience, gained by learning from sustained Russian Cyber-attacks. More generalist training has also been received from UK and US forces. One of the reasons for success has been the early adoption of training by the Ukraine. With this approach, they have been able to clearly demonstrate being ahead of their enemy both when it comes to the acquisition of technologies and, importantly, how to use them to maximum effect.

Problem Statement

There is a lack of digitally skilled people in the UK, causing a significant deficit in GDP. Approximately 51% of UK businesses have a basic skills gap and there is a shortfall in cyber security personnel of c.14k, up from 10k last year. Within National Security, we must horizon scan to determine what is coming and when, so that we can develop our people and organisational capability. We know that State and Non-state actors and asymmetric warfare from non-regular forces often leaves us trailing when it comes to Cyber and emerging tech, partly due to the funding of organisations like ISIS, who gain significant monies from oil and agriculture sales,  government and private donors and criminal activities.

Areas currently posing a threat to National Security are the use of Web 3.0, Intelligent Connectivity (7G), Quantum effects on security, Cyber, Metaverse and Robotics-infiltration. all pose emerging threats to National Security.


We must act by delivering the skills needed to identify future threats, exploit the capabilities, and protect against them. We should consider a combined program of activities across hiring and upskilling. The learning requirements must have inputs from professional leads, end users, procurement, SQEPs and include trend and data analysis from industry outside of National Security e.g. Financial Sector.


The benefits of structured learning, and using operational evaluation of training, has been proven to save lives. This leads to reduced costs; helps maintain a stable economy and protects against CNI attacks. It also means that we could experience shorter warfare campaigns due to superior understanding and application of joint-fires and joint-effects.

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Toby Barnard PGCE MSc BEng(Hons)

Toby Barnard PGCE MSc BEng(Hons)

Managing Director Government Learning , QA Ltd