04 Oct 2022
by Melanie Oldham OBE

Reach young people now to close the cybersecurity skills gap

We need to reach out to young people to breathe new life into the world of cybersecurity by Melanie Oldham OBE.

I believe cybersecurity has done a bad job of reaching out to people across the board, and that is shown by many of the common misconceptions towards the industry..

For example, ask someone what they think cybersecurity is about and they'll think of hacking, coding and have a generally techy view of it.  But cybersecurity is more about people than many realise. It’s also about understanding the actions a cybercriminal wants us to take, so we can spot the telltale signs of an attack and stop it.

Yes there is of course a technical side to cybersecurity, but many don’t realise the human side even exists. By better publicising and teaching this side to people we can not only close the skills gap in the industry, but improve the security of our society as well.

Curriculum, Apprenticeships and Transferable Skills

The first key is an improved curriculum. Think of it like the highway code, we teach people when they are young to look both ways before crossing the road or putting on seat belts. By the time we become adults we don’t see these tasks as extra work, but an intrinsic part of road safety.

By moving cybersecurity into the curriculum people will see being secure online as a more intrinsic part of being online. This will have the knock-on effect of bringing those who are interested in the subject towards considering it as a career.

For some young people, traditional educational routes don’t serve them; this is more common in areas of the country with higher relative deprivation. Apprenticeships and other routes into work can provide an alternative pathway for young people. I believe cybersecurity presents an amazing opportunity to move people from less fortunate backgrounds into a well-paying industry with a bright future.

There are also a number of transferable skills from other subject areas that apply to cybersecurity for those who do want to study.; for example, those with a background in psychology or sociology are well suited. I studied hospitality and have found several parallels between it and cybersecurity. I was able to use my understanding of the services industry to create products that were centred upon the user experience, similar to how hospitality prioritises the experience of guests and visitors.

The Doors Are Open

The reality is that cybersecurity has its doors open to people with almost any kind of experience. The industry just hasn’t done a great job of publicising this. I believe this has contributed to the current skills shortage the industry is suffering from.

The lack of diversity in the industry underlines the untapped potential that’s being missed out on. These missed opportunities can benefit not only the industry, but our society as a whole. Through cybersecurity we have the power to change the prospects of young people and those already in work. It’s never too late to make a positive change in your career, and for many, I believe a change into cybersecurity is ideal.

When I started my cybersecurity awareness training company in 2008, I found great benefits from bringing in experienced professionals from other industries, hiring young talent and bringing over passionate people from other lines of work.

I know first-hand the benefits young talent can bring into an organisation. But I encourage you, no matter your profession, your age or your circumstances, to consider a career in cybersecurity and help me shape the security of our society.


Melanie Oldham OBE

Melanie Oldham OBE

CEO, Bob’s Business

For the past two decades, Melanie has been actively involved in the Information Security industry, helping individuals and organisations to understand how cyber security can help them live and work safer online.

Melanie is the Founder and CEO of Bob’s Business, where her efforts are directed at developing engaging information security awareness to develop a secure organisational culture by challenging and changing employee behaviour. Since last year, Melanie has been the Vice Chair of the UK Cyber Cluster Collaboration (UKC3) focusing on supporting cyber clusters and encouraging greater collaboration between regional cyber security networks to drive skills growth and innovation in the cyber industry in the UK.

In June 2020, Melanie became a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Information Security (FCIIS), having demonstrated commitment and earned respect and authority in the cyber security community. Her services to cyber security were remarked also for her work as the Director of Yorkshire Cyber Security Cluster, which is one of the UKC3-recognised cyber clusters, where Melanie facilitates collaborative work to build and increase information security knowledge and provide a networking platform to share ideas and best practice.

A major component of her service in the cyber security sector is through her collaborations with schools and academia, inspiring the cyber security professionals of tomorrow, encouraging diversity and helping influence and improve cyber career and qualification paths.


Read lessmore