​Edith Cowan, University of Melbourne to lead Australia's cyber skills creation

With AU$1.91 million over four years, the two universities are expected to address the shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals through the country's first batch of Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal government has announced that the University of Melbourne and Western Australia's Edith Cowan University will be leading the country's efforts to boost cybersecurity capabilities by addressing the industry's skills shortage.

The universities will share AU$1.91 million over four years to help build the required expertise and job-ready skills needed by the industry and government through the country's first Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence (ACCSE).

Initially announced in November, the ACCSE initiative was given AU$4.5 million, with the desired outcome of producing work-ready graduates to increase Australia's cybersecurity workforce and "world-leading" research on cybersecurity, as well as providing executive education programs for both industry and government.

Edith Cowan University has seen over 1,000 graduates leave the university with a degree relating to cybersecurity since 2011, but it estimates there will be a shortfall of more than 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals around the world by 2020.

It also noted that almost 20 percent of cyber positions in Australia will go unfilled due to a lack of trained professionals.

"These centres will help meet the unique challenges we face in the digital age by preparing a new generation of graduates to increase our cybersecurity workforce," Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said on Wednesday.

"Graduates from the successful centres of excellence will be equipped with the best knowledge to meet the needs of the cyber industry, business, and government.

"What's more, the centres will encourage the commercialisation of their cybersecurity research and benefit Australia's small and medium-sized industries."

Investment in the ACCSE initiative complements the federal government's 2016 Defence White Paper, which outlined an additional AU$400 million that is required over the next decade to boost Australia's cyber and intelligence capabilities and create around 800 specialist jobs.

The ACCSE cyber skills initiative forms part of Australia's Cyber Security Strategy, which also saw the launch of the Cyber Security Growth Centre in December.

The centre now operates as a not-for-profit company under the new name of the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network. The growth network is led by Craig Davies, former head of security for Australian startup Atlassian, and is responsible for driving the development of a "vibrant and globally competitive" cybersecurity industry in Australia, as well as ensuring Australian businesses can take advantage of the growing market opportunity in cybersecurity.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull initially pledged AU$30 million through to 2019-20 in December 2015 as part of the government's AU$1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda to establish the centre in a bid to grow and strengthen Australia's cybersecurity industry.

Optus, in partnership with LifeJourney International, launched its own cyber education program for secondary school, TAFE, and university students last month, aiming to beef up the country's ability to defend against cyber threats in the future.

The Optus Cyber Security Experience hopes to address the cyber skills shortage in Australia by delivering free online cybersecurity education courses for students, allowing them to experience a day in the life of an Optus cyber expert.

According to LifeJourney, this skills shortfall will amount to 2 million cybersecurity professionals by 2019.

"We can steal each other's talent, but that's not what it's about," Vaughan Paul, Optus VP of HR, said at the launch of the program in May. "We have to start at grass roots level. We have to skill up our current workforce and skill up educators to address the demand that's out there."

The program is also supported by Macquarie University, La Trobe University, and Deakin University, which are partnering to connect students with new cyber-related courses and degree pathways in a bid to teach the skills and activities involved in a cyber attack, and the importance of combating the growing volume of cyber threats.

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