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New UK-SA initiative to develop sought-after cyber security skills

Christopher Tredger
By Christopher Tredger, Portals editor
Johannesburg, 14 Jun 2023

The British High Commission Pretoria, in partnership with KnowBe4 and KPMG, has teamed up with local social enterprise MiDO Technologies on a cyber academy programme to develop digital skills in underserved communities in the Western Cape.

The MiDO Cyber Academy programme was launched in Cape Town today in response to the dual challenges of youth unemployment and cyber security skills shortage. It will support 20 school leavers over 9 months, ptoviding them with cyber, professional and life skills training.

Partners of the programme say according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) 2022, the unemployment rate in South Africa was 63.9% for those aged 15-24, while the current official national rate stands at 34.5%.

They add that skills shortages in the cyber security space hamper the growth of emerging technologies and 4IR. According to (ISC)²’s 2021 Cyber Workforce Report, in 2021 there were 2.72 million vacancies globally for security professionals that could not be filled.

Anna Collard, SVP of content strategy & evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa, told ITWeb that cyber security skills and unemployment gaps in South Africa are far reaching and welcomed the launch of the MiDO Academy project.

“The way the Academy is structured and the course content is designed, it has huge growth potential and could be easily replicated in other provinces as well as possibly on a national-scale in the future,"she said. "However, this is a pilot project and we want to identify key lessons and improvements before embarking on an ambitious national level intervention. Given that this project offers a holistic socio-economic approach to address various challenges being faced in society and the cyber security sector, we hope to build a network of partnerships that can continue to support and expand the project.”

The programme facilitates workshops and guest lectures from industry representatives, as well as exposure to companies for job shadowing and internship opportunities, and there are weekly mentor group sessions.

The partners emphasise the internship component of the programme, offering candidates a direct route into the cyber security market.

“Placing students into internships within the cyber security sector is a key outcome of this project," added Collard. "The project is engaging with organisations in the industry with a view to partner with them, so they can take on the students upon completion of their training as interns and hopefully offer them long-term employment.”

Victoria White, Southern Africa Cyber Lead at the British High Commission Pretoria, said the project "also strives to attract more women to the sector because currently only 9% of the cyber security workforce in Africa are women. 55% of the current cohort candidates are female."

Dale Simons, CEO of MiDO Technologies, added, “We are so grateful to the cyber security community for contributing to this programme. InfoSec Institute provided free licenses, NClose provided stipends, and Cybereason and InfoSec Consulting sponsored Chromebooks. Thank you Stellenbosch University for availing lecture space and resources for the Cyberlab, and Rain for keeping us connected. Together, we are not only hoping but also working hard to make a positive impact on the lives of young people and the future of cyber security in South Africa.”