Every day thousands of people are working to defend UK businesses and citizens from crippling cyber attacks, including fraud and terrorism. Online crime has reached epic proportions, yet we are ill-equipped to fight the battle due to severe skills shortages and an ageing workforce. The stakes for the nation couldn't be higher: unless we get more young people working in the sector, we could lose the global fight against cyber crime. The fact is that young people hold the key to a secure future for everybody.
This is why tech employers are coming together to demystify cyber security careers so that young people can learn about the rewarding range of job opportunities. Currently, too few young people are aware that the cyber security sector is growing rapidly to keep apace with rising cyber threats. This means that specialists are in huge demand by recruiters, and they can command enviable salaries and unique career paths.
In fact, Acumin's Salary Index in November 2013 showed that IT Security Officers and Analysts are being hired on salaries of between £40,000 and £55,000, with Security Investigators commanding significantly more. With the fast pace of evolving technology, cyber crime is expected to increase, meaning that career prospects will continue to be extremely good for skilled employees.
One of the biggest misconceptions that employers are trying to challenge is the idea that tech jobs are best suited to male 'geeks'. In fact, tech employers - including those in cyber security - are looking for bright young men and women from diverse backgrounds, with a broad range of skills and experiences. The sector needs people who are great communicators and problem solvers, with the ability to think on their feet, and demonstrate leadership skills.
In the past, too many IT employees fell into cyber security careers by chance. Employers are trying to change this by raising awareness of the sector with school leavers, students and young professionals. For example a new nationwide internship programme - which will be available from this summer - will offer exciting on-the-job experience for second and final year university students. Also, new apprenticeship opportunities offered by companies including BT, IBM, Capgemini and Atos, offer young people an incredible opportunity to forge their careers straight from school, minus the debts incurred by a university degree.
Yet, if we are to re-programme our futures, to ensure the UK is at the forefront of cyber security technology and skills, we need to look to the next generation. The Secure Futures cyber security awareness programme has already reached more than 2,000 young people across the country. By raising awareness for cyber crime with school children, and equipping them with the skills to protect themselves online, we can help to build a safer society for everyone - now and in the future.