Security Experts Welcome Rise in Students Taking Computing A-Level

Security Experts Welcome Rise in Students Taking Computing A-Level

Cybersecurity experts have welcomed the greater numbers of students taking the Computing A-level exam in the UK this year but warned more is needed to fill the talent pipeline for workplace roles.

A-level results were announced on Thursday and revealed an increase in numbers taking the IT course, from 8299 last year to 10,286 in 2018.

Grades were also up slightly. Some 3.3% gained an A*, up from 3%, while 18.2% got an A-grade, up from 16.9%. The number gaining B-grades also jumped slightly (1.7%) to reach a total of 39.3% while Cs jumped 1.3% to 62.5%.

Although the vast majority taking the course (88%) were male students, they were outperformed again by their female counterparts.

Although these figures are slightly improved from the 90% of male students who took the course last year, the gender imbalance is an ongoing challenge which is mirrored in university courses, explained Ivanti director and UK Women in Tech ambassador, Sarah Lewis.

“The digital skills gap is a massive issue in the UK and globally, as technology — including malevolent technology such as the tools used by cyber-criminals — evolves at a rapid pace. Bring the number of women working in computing up so that it is equal to men and you've doubled the talent pool,” she argued.

“It sounds simple in theory, but in practice it requires businesses and governments to invest in programs and schemes to break down barriers stopping young women from viewing a career in computing, and technology more widely, as viable. The future must be female in order to bridge the digital skills gap.”

Trend Micro principal security strategist, Bharat Mistry, also argued that more work is needed to build a stronger pipeline of talent to enter the workforce.

“Closing this gap isn’t just a challenge for the public sector to solve, businesses have their role too,” he said.

“Whether that’s through hosting hacking competitions aimed at students and young professionals, or offering up their experts to help train school leavers, businesses can help those interested in cybersecurity build on their technical skills and learn how to solve real-world problems in a dynamic environment — making them workplace-ready.”

Alex Hinchliffe, a threat intelligence analyst at Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42, argued that even those not taking IT-related courses at school should be encouraged to consider a career in cybersecurity.

“People who studied humanities, for example, are often better at predicting malware patterns based on previous information,” he claimed. “Threat research degrees have also recently become available as the industry booms, and while maths may be necessary for certain roles, humanities and social science graduates are just as valuable to a threat intelligence team.”

Source: Information Security Magazine