A technology skills and innovation provider has secured the contract to deliver CyberFirst on behalf of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, in the West Midlands for the first time, resulting in significant investment into the technology careers of thousands of local students.

IN4 Group, which already successfully delivers the CyberFirst contract in the North West, is now expanding to the West Midlands to deliver CyberFirst Schools & Colleges, an initiative set up by the NCSC to encourage a more diverse range of young people to pursue careers in the sector, championing cyber education in the region.

It aims to engage with at least 80 schools across the region, providing additional opportunities for students and schools to increase their cyber knowledge and make careers in cyber more accessible.

Key to this will be the role of industry and universities based in the West Midlands. Several Apex partners including IBM, Northrop Grumman, KPMG UK, QinetiQ, CGI and BT, have already invested in a successful delivery model in the North West and there are opportunities to replicate this in the West Midlands.

IN4 is expanding its team and will be establishing offices at STEAMhouse in Millennium Point, Birmingham, where it looks to build further corporate, academic, and local government partnerships in the West Midlands and across the UK.

Having already begun activities in the West Midlands, IN4 held the first CyberFirst MEGA event at Villa Park, bringing together 500 girls from 13 schools in the West Midlands.

In parallel with its work in the North West, IN4 is also looking to establish CyberFirst MEGA Hubs, which will be rolled out across both regions with one in each local authority area. The blueprint for the MEGA Hubs model aims to give every single young person access to world-class technology skills and employment pathways.

CyberFirst MEGA Hubs will be established with CyberFirst Gold recognised schools, colleges and sixth forms to attract inward investment and deliver STEM educational enrichment through the development of a technology-embedded integrated curriculum. They will work with education and corporate partners to deliver skills to young people and provide a route into apprenticeships, undergraduate degrees, and cyber-related careers.

Since May 2022, CyberFirst North West has engaged with over 4,500 young people, including 48 per cent from ethnic minorities and 80 per cent female.

With only 22% of the UK’s cyber security workforce represented by women – a major objective is to inspire girls, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with an interest in STEM careers. IN4 is looking to bring this experience and work closely with a range of expert stakeholders in the West Midlands to help shape the CyberFirst offering to local students.

Lauren Monks, CyberFirst lead and Director of Strategy and Operations at IN4 Group, said: “This is such an exciting opportunity for IN4 Group and CyberFirst to expand its operations to the West Midlands with our pioneering programme, which is designed to spark curiosity and raise career aspirations in technology for all young people.

“With our proven track record of delivering a social return on investment of over £1.6m in less than 12 months in the North West, we’re looking to bring the same kind of social impact to the West Midlands. We want to move away from the postcode lottery of opportunities that are dependent on the place where you live, so the next generation of young people are not only aware of careers in tech but can also realistically see themselves following that path, no matter what background they’re from.”

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said: “The NCSC is committed to encouraging diverse talent into the cyber security industry, but we can’t do this alone. Industry plays a vital role and our partnership with IN4 Group in the West Midlands will help us reach a large audience and help to build the region’s cyber skills ecosystem.”

Angela Moore, Senior Delivery Manager – Careers Strategy at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said: “It was great to witness firsthand at the MEGA event at Aston Villa Football Club just how young girls can be inspired by tech and the potential the sector holds for them in the future. Amazing work and I’m very excited to see how this develops in the future and brings further opportunity for our young people in the West Midlands.”