Cyber Security

Reskilling for the cyber future with CAPSLOCK

25th June 2024
Sheryl Miles

As life rushes ever more towards digital, the demand for skilled cyber security professionals has never been greater.

The COVID-19 pandemic had its part to play in accelerating digital transformation, underscoring the need for robust cyber security measures across various industries. However, this rapid shift also exacerbated the skills gap, and the need to find innovative solutions for training and reskilling the workforce became paramount.

CAPSLOCK, an award-winning education organisation, is one such organisation redefining cyber security education through immersive bootcamps, which are reskilling workforces, affordably onboarding new recruits, and closing the skills gap.

The emergence of CAPSLOCK

CAPSLOCK was co-founded by Dr Andrea Cullen and Lorna Armitage, both of whom have extensive backgrounds in computer science and academia.

Dr Cullen's career began with coding, followed by a return to academia as a mature student, leading to a PhD in operations, and an academic tenure that included creating one of the first MSc programmes in cyber, albeit under a different nomenclature at the time.

Frustrated by the rigid structures and slow pace of change within traditional academia, Dr Cullen noted the barriers potential students faced due to their backgrounds and the cumbersome nature of institutional changes. Together with Armitage, CAPSLOCK was envisioned as a way to dismantle these barriers.

Redefining cyber security education

The importance of passion and diversity in the tech industry, and emphasising that skills and attributes often outweigh formal qualifications is a sentiment that is embedded into the CAPSLOCK approach, which values the potential over academic history.

“CAPSLOCK was all about removing barriers to entry … if you’ve got the determination, passion, interest, and capability, then [cyber] should be an option for you. I don’t care where you’ve been, it’s where you have the opportunity to go that matters.”

CAPSLOCK’s bootcamps are designed to be remote, so people who are unable to attend in person, whether that is due to family or life commitments, or being an unrealistic commute, are able to still benefit from the value they offer. This flexibility has been particularly beneficial during the pandemic, making it possible for a wider audience to participate in the programme.

Innovative learning methodologies

CAPSLOCK employs problem-based and team-based learning methodologies, moving away from traditional lecture-based education. This hands-on, practical approach mirrors real-world scenarios, fostering technical skills, collaboration, critical thinking, and resilience from day one.

Dr Cullen highlights the unique team-based approach: "It’s about a combination of things that means [you’re] very quickly part of this unit; you’ve got shared responsibility."

Before enrolment begins, there is also a pre-course phase to ensure that participants are genuinely interested in cyber security and willing to invest the necessary effort. This phase serves as both a taster of what’s to come and a filter to ascertain whether a cyber career is the right path for an individual.

Addressing the skills gap

The need to address the cyber security skills gap is pressing, so the CAPSLOCK programmes are designed to rapidly upskill individuals, making them job-ready in months rather than years.

CAPSLOCK also collaborates with businesses to reskill their employees. For instance, BT has put a cohort through the programme, moving them into internal cyber security roles. Other businesses have plans to work with CAPSLOCK similarly in the coming months.

Financial accessibility and impact

One significant barrier to education is financial constraints. It is here that CAPSLOCK offers various funding options, including Future Earnings Agreements (FES), Department for Education funding, and other flexible payment plans. These options allow students to defer payments until they secure employment, making the programme accessible to those who might otherwise be unable to afford it.

Despite these challenges, the overall impact has been positive, and has enabled CAPSLOCK to attract a diverse group of learners.

Future directions

Looking ahead, CAPSLOCK aims to expand its offerings and impact. The team hopes to expand their business-to-business side with their Deploy model, where they will work with organisations to train individuals who are then employed on a contracted day rate with the option to hire them permanently in the future. There is also interest in international expansion, particularly in markets like the Middle East.

The shift towards a business-to-business model, where companies partner with CAPSLOCK to reskill their employees, is another strategic focus. This model helps companies address their cyber security needs while ensuring CAPSLOCK’s financial sustainability.

CAPSLOCK is a perfect mix of cyber security and education, showcasing how EdTech can bridge the skills gap and provide opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds. By prioritising passion, determination, and practical skills over traditional qualifications, CAPSLOCK is helping to build a more inclusive and capable cyber security workforce.

The commitment to breaking down barriers and fostering a diverse talent pool is what makes CAPSLOCK a significant player in the field of cyber security education. In a world where cyber threats are ever-present, initiatives such as these are crucial for preparing the workforce of the future.

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