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SUMMER EDITION OUT NOW
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Spring 2021
News

Madeline Howard

Director
CYNAM

A NEW GENERATION OF INSPIRATION

“A unique county-wide initiative means the talent to fuel the local cyber industry is already here” explains Madeline Howard, Director of CyNam.

To me, Cyber Central is the logical conclusion of what we already have in Cheltenham and Gloucestershire. As Director of CyNam, the platform for cyber innovation within Gloucestershire, I see world-leading collaboration and innovation on a daily basis. We already have Hub 8, which is the physical manifestation of the cyber community, where start-ups and SMEs are innovating with global and government bodies on new ideas. But we also have cyber embedded across the schools here as well. The digital and technological know-how really does start at a very young age.

A cyber hub for students

Here in Gloucestershire, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has piloted its Cyber Schools Hub initiative. The initiative fosters collaboration between local schools, the NCSC, local companies and global organisations who share the aim of encouraging young people to engage with computer science and cyber security principles. Overall the initiative seeks to give young students the space and the opportunity to excel and explode into the market of cyber security and innovation. We’re showing them the industries that are based here and the amazing careers they can have by going into the cyber world.

The initiative also aims to dramatically increase the number of students that are inspired by computer science so they go on to take the subject at GCSE and A Level. Nearly every secondary school in the county has signed up to it which shows the level of commitment we’re seeing across Gloucestershire.

Over 40 industries have engaged with the initiative, including everything from global multinationals through to local SMEs. We’re talking about big names like Rolls Royce, EA Games and BT. These businesses are engaging with talented and inquisitive minds across our schools.

Inspiring young women with cyber

So many students are involved in the Cyber Schools Hub initiative, opting to study Computer Science and taking their interest through into Further Education, whether this is onto university or staying local and taking an apprenticeship. I’m delighted to say that a large number of girls are also taking part. We’re moving beyond cyber being about sitting behind a keyboard and showcasing all the opportunities and career paths available.

In November 2019, we held an event where over 800 girls from Year 8 came along to engage with 16 industry partners and take part in the NCSC’s CyberFirst Girls competition. At the event, we saw six teams from Gloucestershire go through to the semi-finals, which is a fantastic achievement and demonstrates how investment at grass roots level is really paying dividends for the county as a whole.

We are the only county in the UK that has this initiative running. I think it’s safe to say that it’s pretty unique across the globe too. The students that are taking part are realising that they don’t need to leave Gloucestershire to flourish, that there’s an exciting and rewarding career pipeline right here on their doorstep.

Bringing opportunity home

Cyber Central shows them that there will be houses and communities for them here too. Before, graduates and school leavers often had to move out of the county to follow their dreams as there wasn’t that much affordable housing. But Cyber Central changes all that.

If you’re a young person coming out of school or university and you’ve got ideas – say you want to create a start-up – you know there’s now a hot-house where you can work and live. We’re going to see those crucial smaller diamond start-ups blossoming very quickly.

And what a place for it all to happen. I’m from Gloucestershire myself but I’ve seen enough of the world to know just how special this community really is. Where else do you have a Science Festival, a Literature Festival, a world-class race course, and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? I almost forgot the vast selection of high performing state and independant schools, and that we are within 75 minutes of 14 universities. If you’re hoping to put down roots and start a family, there just isn’t anywhere better.

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