Zoe Paterson is on a mission – to make sure school pupils across Newport are safe online.
That’s because the 27-year-old, who’s originally from Buxton in Derbyshire but now lives in Newport, is one of five Cyber Skills Inspiration Officers who have been employed across the UK to promote Cyber Explorers in pilot areas, which include Newport, Newry, Inverclyde, Birmingham, and Bradford.
Cyber Explorers has been designed to teach 11-14-year-olds essential digital skills to meet the future demand for talent in the cyber security sector. The programme is the latest UK Government-backed initiative to complement the existing CyberFirst programme of activities, which is led by the National Cyber Security Centre.
Zoe took up the Cyber Skills Inspiration Officer role, which operates out of the University of South Wales (USW), earlier this year in the hope it will help with her ambition of becoming a teacher, and, through the job, is looking to work with schools across Newport to give the youngsters, and teachers, a helping hand.
“My aim with this job is twofold – I want to train the children in cyber safety, and also hope to give the teachers some free time to focus on other parts of their jobs while I’m teaching the Cyber Explorers classes,” Zoe said.
“I know that being online is second nature to modern children – they can use Snapchat, YouTube, and TikTok with no trouble at all – but they may not realise that there are dangers out there. The Cyber Explorers highlights these issues, and gives them the opportunity to understand and fight back against the dangers.
“There’s also a long-term aim of the scheme highlighting the careers in cyber and giving the youngsters a taste of what they can be like. Plenty of companies realise they need access to cyber skills, but there’s a lack of trained people to fill the roles because there’s not enough training available – the hope is that this programme will inspire the youngsters to look at cyber as a career.
“I’m already signed up to provide Cyber Explorer sessions at St Joseph’s and Bassaleg, and over a few weeks will be delivering the sessions to around 1,000 pupils. It won’t stop there though, I’m still looking to go into more schools in the city which may want Cyber Explorers sessions, and would be happy to be contacted about them.”
Clare Johnson, Partnerships and Outreach Manager (Digital and STEM) at USW, said the work Zoe is doing will help to bring more diversity to the cyber sector.
“Currently, girls and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are underrepresented in computer science and IT courses at GCSE and equivalent levels,” Clare said,
“This trend continues in today’s cyber security workforce. Just 16 per cent of roles in the sector are filled by women and many senior roles are not fully representative of wider society. Cyber Explorers has been designed to engage younger students before they choose subjects for their GCSEs and equivalent qualifications with the aim of improving the diversity of pupils considering computer science courses at Key Stage 4 and beyond.”