Students to learn vital digital skills at region’s first cyber security and hacking lab



School and college students are set to learn vital digital skills through the region’s first cyber security and hacking lab, thanks to funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The need for digital skills across all sectors of industry continues to grow rapidly, and people with such skills are expected to be in even greater demand as the region’s economy recovers from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WMCA has awarded Birmingham-based TechTalent Academy £100,000 to set up an ethical hacking, computer network and security challenge centre in the West Midlands, which is free for all schools and colleges in the WMCA area.

Students to learn vital digital skills at region’s first cyber security and hacking lab

The centre is also available for residents of all ages to develop cyber security skills and work towards starting a new career in the tech industry.

During the current academic year, 1,000 people will gain hands-on experience in a range of interactive activities, including cyber-attacks and cryptography challenges.

The Hacking Lab is a physical space with ten cutting-edge workstations in TechTalent Academy’s Birmingham base. However, all its activities can be run remotely, enabling the company to comply with social distancing rules and offer easy access for residents from across the region.

In partnership with West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit, the Hacking Lab will also provide interventions for young people who could otherwise be drawn into cyber-crime.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Improving digital skills for businesses and people across the West Midlands is a vital part of our plan for economic recovery – especially given the impact of the coronavirus on so many businesses. That is why it is vital that businesses have people with the skills to protect them from cyber-crime – which costs the UK billions of pounds every year.

“Despite the challenges our economy faces, there is still high demand for skilled jobs in technology, so this Hacking Lab, supported with funding from the WMCA, is a great, creative way of inspiring young people and adults to start a career in tech, whilst giving them the skills they need to protect themselves and their business.”

Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for jobs and skills, said: “Technology is the ‘golden thread’ across many of our key industries. It’s great that the WMCA is enabling young people and adults to learn new digital skills through innovative training programmes, such as the Hacking Lab.”

David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Some of the biggest threats we now face are cyber related. Hostile cyber-attacks are classed in the most serious security risk category, alongside terrorism.

“If we train more people to deal with cyber-attacks, whether it is against them personally or their businesses, we can help reduce the number of victims.

“The interventions we make with young people, at risk of becoming involved in cyber-crime, are vital. This new Hacking Lab will give young people the skills needed to help us tackle cyber threats in the years to come.”

Janice Rae, CEO of TechTalent Academy, said: “We strongly believe the Hacking Lab will help young people in the West Midlands to realise their potential, overcome perceived barriers and access opportunities in further education and industry.

“The Hacking Lab is free for all schools, colleges and community organisations in the WMCA area, and will focus on helping residents develop a love for tech. We will also offer opportunities specifically for neuro-diverse learners.”

TechTalent has worked in partnership with cyber platform Immersive Labs to develop the centre.

James Reynolds, talent acquisition manager at Immersive Labs, said: “We are excited to help power the Hacking Lab and TechTalent Academy, to equip and identify the next generation of cyber security talent and improve access to cyber opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds and experiences.”

TechTalent’s ambition is to develop the hacking lab into a national resource to offer a route to employment for under-represented young people and adults.

To find out more about digital employment opportunities and how the WMCA is equipping local people with the skills needed to gain jobs in this growth sector, visit https://www.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/productivity-skills/digital/

For more information about the Hacking Lab, contact thehackinglab@techtalent.academy  

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