Tech-savvy teens will benefit from a government, education and charity drive to create more than 1,000 free places on courses designed to reduce the UK’s cyber skills gap.

The CyberFirst courses for 14-to-17-year-olds are to be delivered by training experts QA and government agency the National Cyber Security Centre.

They will work with education charity The Smallpeice Trust to provide 1,150 free places at 23 five-day courses across Britain in July and August 2018.

The courses range from the introductory to the advanced and will give students an insight into the world of cyber security, as well as the tools, knowledge and skills required.

Attendees will learn how technology really works, how to secure IT networks and how to protect family members from online threats, among other topics.

 “CyberFirst is a bold and innovative programme aimed at supporting and developing the UK’s potential cyber security talent and helping to address the cyber skills gap,” said Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for cyber skills and growth.

“Millennials are arguably the most naturally adept at using technology. Most have used internet-enabled devices from a very early age and have an instinctive understanding of how to use them but not necessarily how they work and how to protect them.

“As well as equipping young people with cutting-edge skills, these courses will help prepare them for a possible career in cyber security and a role in making Britain the safest place to live and work online.”

→ READ MORE: UKFAST UNVEILS THREAT MONITORING SYSTEM

A study last year by recruitment website CWJobs found 94 per cent of tech employers believe there is an IT skills shortage, with 80 per cent saying they struggled to fill cyber security roles.

Dr Kevin Stenson

Dr Kevin Stenson (pictured above), chief executive of The Smallpeice Trust, said: “It is clear that the UK has insufficient numbers of cyber security experts to meet demand. As technology continues to evolve, that need will only intensify.

“The simple fact is we need more students coming through and filling these roles.

“These CyberFirst courses aim to provide a fun and compelling learning experience, which will inspire and incentivise young people to consider a rewarding and exciting career in cyber security.”

Several girls-only courses have been added to this year’s CyberFirst summer programme to assist with the drive to redress the gender balance within cyber security.

Research by cyber security industry body Crest revealed women make up just 10 per cent of the global workforce, while a Department for Education report found 0.4 per cent of female pupils chose to study computer science at A-Level in 2017, compared with 4.5 per cent of males.

Dr Stenson added: “Cyber security careers continue to be dominated by men, and this is something that must change.

“Working through CyberFirst, we hope to attract and inspire more young women to pursue cyber security careers by providing a gateway for young people from all backgrounds to explore the possibilities of working within the sector.”

CyberFirst Defenders will see 14- and 15-year-olds learn about the Internet of Things, securing smart devices and protecting themselves from cyber breaches.

CyberFirst Futures will teach teens aged 15 and 16 about why cyber-attacks occur, securing smart devices and networks, and cloud storage.

CyberFirst Advanced is open to students aged 16 and 17. It includes lessons on cybercrime, protecting digital communications and network vulnerabilities.

There are 1,150 free places available on 23 courses at residential and non-residential locations in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Surrey, Lancaster, Warwick, Gloucestershire and Paisley.