Speaking at the Reform “Cyber Security: assurance, resilience, response” conference in London, Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey outlined a new voucher scheme and portal for cyber skills designed specifically for SMEs.
The launch of the voucher scheme and online portal is part of a package of initiatives designed to increase the resilience of UK businesses to cyber-attacks. Vaizey said the government wanted to help protect UK businesses against cyber-attack and crucially “help ensure we have the skilled workforce in place to manage the increased pressures of the digital age.”
However the reality is the government are offering very little money and a lot of hot air. The security innovations grant scheme has funds of just £1m – yes we said one million - which if they were to offer the maximum of £5,000 to every business would leave them supporting just 200 businesses in the UK. As of 2014 there are currently around 5.2 million small businesses in the UK, which is a lot more than 200 and if every one of the 5.2 million were to apply then they would receive just under 20p each.
But it’s not just about grants, the government has also launched in association with not-for profit cyber industry group CREST the new “Inspired Careers” online skills and career hub. The hub claims to feature careers information and advice, internship and apprenticeship opportunities, academic and professional training courses, work experience and senior level vacancies. In reality what it offers is an incredibly frustrating website that appears to ignore every bit of advice on UI development available. It also appears to be run by CRESTS PR company, PRPR who also appear to be the gatekeepers for articles and whitepapers. It also offers businesses the ability to sponsor sections, which seems at odds with the purposes of CREST. PwC are the first sponsor on the site and co-incidentally CREST Chairman Paul Midian is also a director at PwC. To be fair job adverts are free, that’s if anyone can be bothered to look. The adverts aren’t searchable by title, salary or location which makes them near enough useless. This is not the sort of site or commitment that the current skills-gap really needs.
This initiative is in our view a farce. The money on the table is chicken feed and isn’t going to encourage any small or medium sized business to apply for a grant. Likewise the skills portal is a step in the right direction but as a way of starting a new generation to take up cyber skills it is woefully inadequate.
What we need is an increased spend in education and we need a huge commitment to teaching the right digital skills, security – while valuable - isn’t one of the skill sets that we would prioritise. Particularly as the UK cyber industry is already well funded, it’s worth an estimated £17.6bn and employs over 40,000 people – and that’s not just at GCHQ - which seems to us like an industry that’s doing quite well.
Additionally the Government also announced the Cyber Security Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) fund worth £500,000. The fund is intended to provide grants to encourage partnerships between academic institutions and cyber security companies to support innovation and to help the businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity. The funding of £500k is expected to support around 12 innovative cyber security projects, at around £42k each, quite frankly they’d get more money on Kickstarter and it would be quicker.
Well done government you have screwed this one up, good and proper.