The big four banks are backing a new educational initiative, the Schools Cyber Security program, designed to teach high school students about cyber security skills and encourage them to pursue a career in IT.

The Australian Computer Academy (ACA) developed the $1.35 million national program which will be taught to students in years 7 to 10.

According to the ACA this program is the first cross-industry coalition of its kind in Australia and is backed by AustCyber, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac and British Telecom.

This partnership aims to address the current skills shortage in IT.

According to the AustCyber cyber security sector competitiveness plan, Australia will need 18,000 more cyber security workers by 2026.

The program, which will be delivered by the ACA, consists of four interactive challenges, the first of which was unveiled today. Challenge number one introduces students to cyber security fundamentals and is now accessible by teachers and schools across the country.

James Curran, academic director of the ACA said, “There is a significant lack of awareness and skills around cyber security – in society in general, and amongst students.

Michelle Price, CEO, AustCyber

“The Schools Cyber Security Challenges addresses this gap by fostering security-conscious students who are well equipped to deal with cyber security challenges both in their personal lives, and later, in the workforce.”

Michelle Price, CEO at AustCyber said, “It is critical for Australia’s economic prosperity that we build a highly skilled and educated cyber security workforce, as well as ensure all students, parents and teachers across the country have access to cyber security resources aligned to the Digital Technologies curriculum.

“By focusing on Australian students, Cyber Challenges provides an important foundational step towards resolving skills shortages and supporting a sustained skills pipeline for generations to come.”

The remaining three challenges are scheduled to launch over 2019 and will focus on: data transmission and encryption; wired and wireless network security; and web application security.

Women in cyber security

Lynwen Connick, chief information security officer at ANZ said there are fewer women learning computer science now then there was when she was at university and she doesn’t know why this is happening.

However she said this new program gives women an opportunity to build their interest in the subject, “The Cyber Challenge provides an opportunity to build greater curiosity and passion for cybersecurity amongst young Australians, particularly females. Currently, women represent only 10 per cent of the world’s cyber security industry.”

Lynwen Connick, chief information security officer, ANZ

Connick said, “This is a career where we really do make a difference, we enable people to connect securely around the world, we enable business growth, it’s something that’s really going to change and advance our country and yet we don’t sell that message to people.

“My career has been very technical and I’ve had the opportunity to do amazingly different things, working with prime ministers, travelling the world, doing things that make a difference. It’s not all about solving the threat but it’s also about enabling opportunity. I think if we sell that message we get a lot of women interested.”

Price said there a number of factors to keep women within the IT industry such as role-modelling, having women in CEO positions and talking about the experience females have had in the industry.

She said, “One of the things I embrace about being a CEO is to talk about the experience I’ve had. A reasonably young CEO as well, having all of the experiences exposed around how people – including women – try to keep me down in my career prior to now. So being honest about that and calling out behaviour in a constructive way rather than throwing bricks.

“All of those usual things are important but I think some of the other things we are starting to see emerge, that are really important as well, is challenging the policies that already have built-in biases.”

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