Australia's TAFE institutions to offer cybersecurity qualifications

As of next year, TAFEs across the country will be offering skills-based cybersecurity certificate and diploma level qualifications.

TAFE institutions around Australia have agreed to deliver cybersecurity qualifications in a bid to tackle the skills shortage the industry is facing.

With newly appointed Minister for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Angus Taylor reporting Australia requires around 11,000 cyber-qualified individuals in the coming years, he told ABC News on Thursday afternoon that it is costing the Australian economy upwards of AU$15 billion each year.

"We've got an industry that's expected to grow three times -- to be three times bigger than it is today over the coming decade, so we really need good Australians who want to find great opportunities," Taylor said. "There's fewer faster growing industries than this one."

The cybersecurity certificate and diploma level qualifications to be offered by the TAFE institutions have been developed in partnership with a bunch of industry partners, including ANZ Bank, the Australian Information Security Association, BAE Systems, Cisco Australia and New Zealand, CITT, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Deloitte, ISACA, NBN, REA Group, and Telstra.

According to AustCyber -- an industry-led and government-funded not-for-profit organisation funded under the country's National Innovation and Science Agenda -- the Certificate IV in Cyber Security 22334VIC and Advanced Diploma of Cyber Security 22445VIC courses are practical, non-degree courses that students can complete on-the-job.

After running a pilot at Victoria's Box Hill Institute in Victoria, the courses are now available for enrolment at the Canberra Institute of Technology, TAFE NSW, TAFE QLD, TAFE WA, and TAFE SA from 2018.

AustCyber said TasTAFE and Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory are "committed" to providing cybersecurity training and will work closely with industry in their respective jurisdictions to plan implementation of the programs in 2018.

"There is a critical shortage of skilled cybersecurity workers in Australia needed to help secure organisations against malicious cyber activity, so it is extremely encouraging to see Australian TAFEs join forces to do what TAFEs do best -- provide practical, hands-on skills aligned with industry needs," AustCyber CEO Craig Davies said, announcing the launch of the qualifications at an event at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday.

According to Taylor, this is the first instance of the same qualifications offered on a nationwide level by TAFE institutions.

"There's a real call to action, we've got a fantastic set of courses here," he added.

Taylor said TAFE educators that have jumped on board the initiative are sufficiently equipped to deliver the appropriate training.

"There was an enormous enthusiasm from every state and territory, which is an extraordinary outcome that's been achieved here," he said. "Recognising that this is an important area for businesses and government as well -- we have a desperate need for more people with these skills in the federal government -- and the TAFEs have seen the opportunity and of course they're very well set up to go after these sorts of areas."

The minister expects there to be a "reasonably quick" turnaround for students completing the degrees and that it will not replace university degrees or other industry-based training that is still important for the country's future.

"The criminals can be on your phone and in your home any day of the week now through technology -- this is a very substantial threat and we need to combat it," Taylor said in response to a question asking what is at stake by not having cyber-qualified people in Australia.

"If we don't get it right, it will slow down the rate at which we can digitise and capture those opportunities that we see in the digital economy."

Speaking with ZDNet last year, Australia's Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security Alastair MacGibbon said he wants the understanding of cybersecurity to be a life skill children of today grow up with, which means taking the conversation to primary school classrooms.

While PhD, university, and even high school students should still be gaining powerful knowledge on the threat landscape, MacGibbon would argue that this kind of structure isn't enough to ensure the success of Australia when it comes to cybersecurity.

"For me, being a successful person in my generation was being able to read and write and do basic maths," he told ZDNet. "What is going to get our kids to be successful in this world is the concept of computation, coding, and communication.

"If we're going to win when it comes to protecting the Australian way of life, in terms of cybersecurity, then it indeed starts in primary schools."

He also wants those in IT to look at furthering their skills in the cybersecurity sector.

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