The security and resilience is a growth sector in the UK with a current turnover of £18.5bn which includes £7bn in exports, 124,000 employees and over 3,000 apprentices. These figures do not include the more traditional areas of security such as man-guarding and policing, focussing more on cyber-security and other technical solutions that address pre and post event solutions and resilience resolutions.
Currently there are 7,000 vacancies for cyber-security jobs in the UK, we do not have enough qualified and experienced workers to fill these jobs and this shortfall is going to grow as the demand for cyber-security expands across the globe.
This is just one example of the demand for skilled people in the security sector. Every business from shopkeepers to major industry has a requirement to be secure, both physically and virtually. Many businesses from 50 employees upward would most likely employ a security manager/director to keep that business safe, others may use a out-sourced company to provide these skills. Whichever route is chosen, appropriately skilled and experienced staff are required. There is also a demand for more women and diversity including people who are neurodiverse in the security sector.
There are 2 areas to discuss here:
- attracting new businesses to our region to fill the requirement this growing sector attracts, and
- developing the skilled workforce needed to populate these businesses
Developing the skilled workforce needed
Taking the second point first, our region is uniquely placed close to London, in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and has access to more than a handful of other prestigious universities as well as the prominent new South-Central Institute of Technology in Bletchley, Oxford and Reading. Clearly the SEMLEP region can deliver the education and skills to our future security workforce. However, there is a lack of awareness of these sectors as potential career paths in school students, consequently when choosing the subjects for GCSE and A- level this lack of knowledge means that unfitting choices are made should that student wish to pursue a career in the security sector.
There is much to be done in raising awareness of these fulfilling and lucrative careers to students from the age of 8 and upwards. The earlier the better as they can then grow the interest, develop the soft skills needed as well as chose the most appropriate subjects to pursue. School career advisors cannot be expected to keep up with the fast-paced security industry, suggesting more than just the Police as a career in security would be a good start. Engagement with industry is the way forward, inviting appealing speakers from exciting businesses will go a long way to enthusing students towards a career in these sectors. Children are inspired by great role models; this also works for encouraging females and other diversities into these areas. The more exposure the better, SEMLEP can encourage businesses to work with education providers to supply these role models, it is in their best interests to ensure they have a future workforce to utilise.
The Home Office have a working group (which I sit on) looking at this issue right now, once the results are published a link will be sent for dissemination to the appropriate bodies.
Attracting businesses to fulfil the needs of a growing sector
Returning to the matter of encouraging new security sector businesses to our region, the recently released 2022 Milton Keynes Tech Report made some very interesting suggestions that are relevant to the wider SEMLEP region and would work for the security and resilience sector.
- A tech steering group that brings together key stakeholders from across the tech ecosystem to develop and deliver a tech (including the security sector) strategy.
- Design and create a technology hub or at the very least enable all the current hubs to collaborate. Create a tech accelerator as part of the hub and the accelerator should provide specific support for scaleups including targeted business advice on how to commercialise new products and innovations.
- Establish an education providers’ group to create tech talent strategy for the benefit of the SEMLEP region covering Further Education (FE), and Higher Education (HE) providers to develop a strategy that services the current and future tech needs of the region.
- Develop a strategic marketing plan for showcase and promotion of the region, and its success stories nationally and internationally.
In summary, the security and resilience sector is a growth area that the SEMLEP region should exploit. Situated close to London and between Oxford and Cambridge this region is well placed to benefit from new businesses, relocations and start-ups. The students in this region need to know about career opportunities in the security sector and how they can prepare themselves to be most suited to fill the job vacancies.
The future for the SEMLEP region in terms of the security sector, business creation and workforce skill development is exciting.
Written by Elizabeth Sheldon
Among many other roles, Elizabeth is Chair of the Security Advisory Board at Cranfield University and is a SEMLEP Ambassador.