Earlier this year, we were fortunate enough to host the South East regional final of the 2023 CyberFirst Girls Competition. This was our third time, and it was as inspiring as the first.

The competition is part of the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) campaign to inspire more girls to consider pursuing careers in cyber, as female representation in the sector only accounts for 16% of the UK’s cyber workforce.

Safety is at the heart of what we do at NATS, and cyber security has become an increasingly important part of our business. We work on this event with the NCSC because we want to do all that we can to provide opportunities for girls to explore their interests in STEM and cyber subjects and to consider them as a future career.

The NCSC, a part of GCHQ, has several initiatives aimed at encouraging young people into a career in cyber security, including girls development days running in March.

The competition saw 13 regional finals take place simultaneously across the UK, all hosted by industry partners like ourselves. More than 8,700 girls entered this year’s competition, up on last year’s participation by 24% and bringing the total of girls who have entered to 65,000 since it began in 2017.

On the day, the 11 qualifying teams of Year 8 students from schools across the South East battled it out at NATS in the hopes of being crowned winners. Working as a team, they solved cyber-related challenges to test their skills across a range of cyber security topics like cryptography, networking, malware and coding. It was great to see the students excited and engaged in the challenges throughout the day.

The regional winners were a team of four from Nonsuch High School for girls in Sutton, Surrey. Each of the students in the winning team received a laptop as part of their prize, along with an invitation to a celebration event, which takes place this month. All of the finalists were given goody bags and certificates to recognise the huge achievement of reaching the final and being named the top teams in the region after battling it out against hundreds of schools in preliminary rounds.

It was fantastic to be selected by the NCSC to host the event again, recognising our commitment and involvement in the wider national CyberFirst programme. We are proud to be supporting the growth and encouragement of cyber skills into schools and particularly girls, as we try and rebalance a gender gap in the cyber security workforce.

DID YOU KNOW: Estimates suggest that there could be 100,000 unfilled cyber security roles in the UK by 2022* (Prospects.ac.uk) – with half of all businesses looking for more technical know-how to protect against cyber attacks and critical security breaches. 


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