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CASE STUDY: Creating a student community with cyber security

Launched in 2020, the North West Cyber Resilience Centre’s (NWCRC) Student Chapter is a group for any student studying cyber security in Greater Manchester. Before the group was created, there wasn’t any community to bring together cyber students across the region and help them onto their career path. 

The NWCRC was launched in 2019 as a partnership between regional police forces and tech trade body Manchester Digital. The not-for-profit organisation offers free or low-cost training or sessions with cyber security consultants to help SMEs protect themselves against cybercrime. 

In order to help develop the talent pipeline for the growing cyber security industry in the North West, the NWCRC decided to offer student placements and set up the Student Chapter group. Setting up the group was a start to forming a community where like-minded people meet up and share their knowledge and ultimately contribute to the industry's growth.

There are now over 300 students signed up for the group, and six events have been run over the last few years. The last event saw 100 students come together to hear from industry professionals and Andrew Snowden, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire. Several speakers discussed their career path to date, what it's like for women working in tech, how they got their first break into the world of cyber security and offered vital insight into the most in-demand skills. 

As well as developing a community of cyber students, the NWCRC recruits a group of junior cyber security analysts each year. This allows them to gain real-world paid on-the-job experience in cyber security and put into practice the knowledge they’re gaining at university. All of the work is supervised by experienced professionals and seconded police officers and also helps them learn professional skills, such as communication and working with other professionals. 

To further enhance students' knowledge, the NWCRC started to work alongside Steven Cockcroft at Cyber Security Professionals to introduce a unique cybersecurity qualification path for a select number of our students. These certifications help to bring the students to industry standards and demonstrate our commitment to delivering our security services to industry standards.

Jacob Alcock, who studied Computer Science at Manchester Metropolitan University, joined the student programme to gain experience and was offered a full-time position at the end of his course. He is currently a full-time cyber security consultant at NWCRC.

“Thanks to the NWCRC, I gained practical experience and became part of a community while still studying. Working alongside industry experts helped me apply my learning and acquire the necessary professional skills. The student programme provided me with opportunities that would have been impossible otherwise.” said Jacob

In 2022, the NWCRC expanded its reach to include universities across the North West, including Liverpool, Chester and Lancashire. Adopting remote working as a hybrid workforce has made this transition possible, and they already have students from UCLAN working with the centre.

In September 2022, the NWCRC also gained their first industrial student placement, Steven Duckett, who is studying computer science with cyber security at the University of Salford. Steven worked full-time as a cyber security consultant for his year in industry, until August 2023, when he returned to university for his final year. 

The effort the team has put into the students’ skill development in cyber security is exceptionally unique, and the outcomes are starting to speak for themselves. An independent survey on the social value that the North West Cyber Resilience Centre has brought to students is a £6 per £1 investment, which is a phenomenal return on investment.

Sign up for updates about the NWCRC Cyber Security Student Chapter (external website)

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