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Call for Northern Ireland's Cyber Security Sector to Influence the Future of Booming Industry

News release

12:00 Friday, 04 March 2022

Lisa Ventura

DCMS And UK Cyber Security Council Discuss Role “Vital Industry” Can Play in Northern Ireland as Sector Becomes Intrinsic to our Increasingly Digital Lives 

The UK Cyber Security Council has revealed the significant role the cyber security sector will play by creating jobs and protecting businesses across Northern Ireland, as the industry’s importance grows in line with our increasingly connected and digital lives.  

With a joint ambition to ensure the UK becomes the safest place to live and work online, two high profile events held between The UK Cyber Security Council and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) addressed the vital role the sector could play and the opportunities it could create across the region.  

From millions of digitally connected and wireless devices in homes, to critical infrastructure operations across energy, transport and manufacturing industries; digital technologies undoubtedly improve efficiencies, but have also created increased risks for cyber-attacks, data breaches and hacking. 

Although these risks have increased in recent years, so too have opportunities for jobs in the sector – according to the Council - in bolstering the nation’s defences against malicious cyber-attacks.  

According to a recent DCMS report, the rapidly expanding sector employs 52,700 individuals and contributes around £5.3 billion GVA to the UK economy, a 33% increase on the previous year. Comparatively, that’s roughly half the size of the GVA added by the UK’s agricultural industry. 

The number of active businesses specialising in the cyber security sector across Northern Ireland sits at 94 – employing around 2,300 individuals – an estimated 4% of the UK’s cyber security workforce. And according to government statistics, the average advertised salaries (2021) in core cyber security roles in Northern Ireland is £49,100 – two-thirds higher than the average £29,000 salary. 

The two events discussed the need for the UK to establish and embed industry-wide standards, ethics and pathways for those working in the cyber profession by 2025, if it is to become the safest place to live and do work online. The events called on the industry’s practitioners to participate in helping to shape the Council’s future strategy and engage with the Government’s consultation on the sector, which closes on 20th March. 

The events found: 

  • There is a skills gap in the industry, with an annual shortfall of 10,000 practitioners in the UK 
  • Half of businesses in the UK have a skills gap in cyber security 
  • There is also a need for more diversification within the sector – only 16 percent are women and 17 percent come from ethnic minority backgrounds

The UK Cyber Security Council’s CEO, Simon Hepburn, said: “With record levels of investment last year, the UK’s £10 billion cyber security sector has the potential to create thousands of highly skilled and rewarding careers for people across Northern Ireland.  

“The two online events were designed to provide individuals and organisations working within the region’s cyber security cluster and business leaders with an opportunity to directly shape and influence the future of the profession. 

“We encourage those working in the sector to engage with DCMS’ ongoing consultation, as the Government seeks to address new measures to boost British businesses’ cyber security after recent high-profile attacks.  

“The consultation asks for views on how best to ensure the UK Cyber Security Council is suitably empowered to be the voice of the profession, and to tackle the scale and diversity of the skills shortage which the government and industry seeks to address.” 

Simon continued: “Our other event provided the region’s practitioners with an opportunity to feed into and advise on the professional and ethical standards that cyber security professionals will follow throughout their career journeys. 

“The Council is encouraging those who already work in, or are interested in a career in, cyber security to engage in these forums. They will help us to develop and align both standards and career paths for a vital sector which will increasingly impact all our lives in the years to come.” 

As the voice of the UK’s cyber security profession, the role of the Council is to champion the cyber security sector and its practitioners across the UK, providing broad representation for the industry, accelerating awareness and promoting excellence in the profession.

If you'd like to participate in the DCMS consultation, please visit:  https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/embedding-standards-and-pathways-across-the-cyber-profession-by-2025  

To have your say on how the UK Cyber Security Council shapes the direction for the ethics and standards for working in the sector, please visit: https://www.ukcybersecuritycouncil.org.uk/events