IN4 Group’s North West CyberFirst contract win will support over 100,000 students into tech careers

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A leading skills and technology group has secured the CyberFirst North West contract from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, which will result in significant investment into technology careers for thousands of local students.

IN4 Group has successfully been awarded the contract to continue delivering 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’s North West Cyber Corridor.

Over the last 18 months, IN4 has been the CyberFirst North West delivery partner and has generated additional investment from across public and private sectors, including founding Apex partners: IBM, Northrop Grumman, KPMG UK, QinetiQ, and BT.

The programme will benefit thousands of local students in the region by April 2026 through the recognition of up to 85 schools and colleges with CyberFirst bronze, silver or gold awards and the delivery of at least 70 CyberFirst days per year, which are an immersive workplace experience established to expose students to the future of technology and cyber security. Teachers, local government, academia and industry also benefit from an annual education conference and a celebration event.

IN4 will also hold 15 Empower events with more than 7000 girls from schools across the North West in attendance. These events are specifically targeted at encouraging Year 8 girls to pursue an interest in STEM subjects by introducing them to the inspirational people working in technology and cyber roles today.

This is designed to encourage girls to explore the world of technology, helping to address the lack of diversity in the UK cyber workforce, where women currently make up just 17 per cent.

This follows the UK government’s investment of more than £5 billion into its new National Cyber Force in Samlesbury, Lancashire, and will help meet the need for a highly skilled digital workforce in the emerging North West Cyber Corridor.

According to the North West Cyber Corridor Innovation Impact Study, there is a significant economic benefit through growing cyber security employment in the region which aims to support at least 30,000 jobs in the cyber sector by 2035.

Mo Isap, CEO of IN4 Group, said: “We are privileged to be given this opportunity to continue building a cyber education ecosystem and establishing CyberFirst accredited schools and colleges across the North West in partnership with the NCSC and GCHQ.

“With the UK government’s investment into Samlesbury, Lancashire, and the development of the North West Cyber Corridor, the CyberFirst initiative will have a significant impact on young people in the region and will inspire future generations into technology careers. The bringing together of education, skills, technology, and industry stakeholders is the key enabler to creating prosperity in the region.”

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

Lauren Monks, Director of Strategy and Operations at IN4 Group, said: “We’re really excited to have been successful in securing ongoing funding for CyberFirst in the North West so we can continue to inspire, engage, and encourage young people to consider careers in technology. CyberFirst is about exposing them to those opportunities and enabling them to make informed choices. We need to ensure young people know that careers in technology and cyber security are for them, no matter what background they’re from.”

Alongside the pipeline for new Apex partners, there are also plans to augment the programme in January 2024 by offering exclusive sponsorship opportunities through TalentFirst, which will empower Year 12 students with customised career activities.

The pilot programme will see participants engage in weekly workshops, gain insights through specialised sessions, interact with industry professionals, receive support with applications, explore work experiences, and benefit from mentorships.