Neurodivergent Cyber Security Training Programme
The UK Cyber Security Forum started training unemployed neurodivergent adults in cyber security in 2018. This Neurodivergent Cyber Security Training aimed to help address some key issues including:
- A significant cyber security skills shortage set against a fast-growing demand for individuals with technical skills
- The low rates of employment of individuals with Asperger’s and other neurodivergent conditions
In 2022, two cohorts of trainees have successfully completed the Neurodivergent Cyber Security Training courses, consisting of eighteen individuals from the Hereford and Worcestershire area. To date, twelve of these are now working, with eleven of these in the Cyber Security / IT industry.
Neurodiversity & Cyber Statistics
|15% of people in the UK are Neurodivergent
|75.5% is the current employment rate in the UK (ONS July-Sept 2022)
|52.1% of disabled adults in the UK between the ages of 16-64 are employed
|21.7% of autistic adults in the UK between the ages of 16-64 are employed
|3.4 million: the shortage of workers in the field of Cyber Security globally (2022)
As ONS the figures show, the disability employment gap is still very wide with around half of disabled people in work, compared to over 75% of non-disabled people. However, the autism employment gap is even wider with just over 21% of autistic adults reported in paid work and only 16% of those in full time employment.
Many neurodivergent individuals have skills that can suit some cyber security roles. In addition to self-taught technical skills, many are detail-focused and effective at recognising changes in patterns. Yet, there has often been little support in developing those skills and matching them to relevant career paths, leading to these individuals being frequently long-term unemployed.
Neurodivergence can also make it difficult to work in a typical workplace, affecting aspects like social interaction, understanding workplace ‘rules’, and coping with noise and excessive activity. As a consequence, many adults in this situation have previously been unsuccessful in getting or holding jobs, leading to high social anxiety and low self-esteem.
When considering the global shortage of 3.4 million workers in the cyber security industry, there is clearly an untapped community of skilled neurodivergent individuals. With support and development two core issues can be addressed:
- Supporting neurodivergent individuals to gain meaningful employment suited to their skills
- Helping to fill the skills gap in cyber security roles
The UKCSF have developed their Cyber Security Training Programme over the last few years to focus on the needs of the trainees. By creating a stress-free environment away from judgement and bias, individuals can relax, learn, and discover their potential in the field of cyber-security and IT support.
The current programme runs as a 2 x 5-week multi-level course and includes face to face training, access to Immersive Labs online training platform and guest speakers from a wide variety of cyber security organisations. The skills developed on the course have been mapped against the CIISec skills Framework. These skills provide the trainees with enough knowledge to apply for Accredited Affiliate Membership of CIISec which is an internationally recognised professional qualification.
The training provides social as well as technical training and helps the trainees build greater confidence in a safe environment. There is a quiet space available during the on-location training and a welfare officer providing pastoral support, which has continued until they are settled in their new roles.
Looking to the future, we now plan to expand our training, so we can help all individuals from less privileged and underrepresented groups to have the opportunity for a fulfilling career in cyber security.