The University of NSW and AWS collaborate to enable tomorrow’s cybersecurity workforce

With new ways of working, and more ways for us to connect across different devices and networks, cybersecurity is one of the critical challenges of the digital age.

The threat level for Australian organisations is increasing constantly. According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Annual Cyber Threat Report 2020-21, the ACSC received over 67,500 cybercrime reports during the 2020-21 financial year. This equated to one cyberattack every eight minutes, with self-reported losses from cybercrime totalling more than AU$33 billion.

As organisations increasingly embrace cloud services to unlock innovation, they must ensure that their cyber security strategies evolve at the same pace. One of the key factors in defending against cyber criminals is having a workforce of skilled cyber security professionals. However, Australia is currently facing a widespread shortage of skilled digital workers, with research from AlphaBeta, commissioned by Amazon Web Services (AWS), predicting Australia needs to fill an additional 6.5 million digital roles by 2025 to meet growing demand for technology skills.

A 2020 study specifically focused on the cybersecurity workforce by the non-profit cybersecurity skills organisation (ISC)2 concluded Australia had a cybersecurity workforce gap of 27,192. It also found cloud security was the biggest gap in knowledge amongst cybersecurity professionals, with 40% of professionals interviewed saying it was the number one skill they wanted to focus on in the coming year.

Collaborating for our cyber future

To help fill this skills shortfall, AWS is collaborating with the University of NSW’s (UNSW) CyberSECurity Education Network (SECedu), to create course materials to empower students to operate securely in a world of cloud services.

The goal of the collaboration is to teach both professional and practical cyber security skills and enable students to create pathways into employment. It offers hands-on experience in the application of cloud security for AWS environments. Together, SECedu and AWS are giving students the opportunity to undertake real-world cloud security challenges and produce solutions using AWS services.

AWS’s Head of Security for Asia Pacific and Japan – Commercial, Phil Rodrigues, says “We listened to our customers, and they told us that cloud security skills are hard to find in the industry. AWS is helping to change that with the new generation of individuals coming into the workforce. Examples like our collaboration with SECedu make sure there are pathways for students to build the important skills they need to meet these evolving industry requirements, both today and into the future.”

The Director of SECedu and Professor of Cyber Security at UNSW Richard Buckland says demand for innovative and secure cloud is growing at an incredible pace – and the current education system can’t keep up.

“Our approach is to rethink the way we teach the next generation by working with professionals in the industry to accelerate the education we can give our students,” Buckland says. “This is an incredible opportunity to help close this gap. Together we are helping shape a cyber secure future for Australia.”

Pathways for future cyber professionals

As part of the collaboration, AWS mentors guide teams of students through the semester to impart critical thinking skills, while building their knowledge of cloud and cybersecurity.

So far more than 120 students have completed the course, with graduates already helping fill the skills gap by securing jobs at companies including Cisco and Atlassian, and at AWS.

UNSW SECedu graduate Talia Gokyildirim says it was amazing to see what she and her team achieved together.

“In a short time we gained a huge amount of knowledge,” Gokyildirim says. “I would definitely recommend this course to anyone. It has really changed the way students learn and prepares you incredibly well for the workforce.”

I got an offer as a software engineer at Cisco,” Kulkarni says. “I was able to leverage a lot of the cloud engineering and automation aspects of the (SECedu) project in an industry role.”

Commitment to Addressing Skills Shortage

AWS is invested in helping address our digital skills challenge, Rodrigues says, “We are committed to offering a robust program of digital skills development to ensure our future IT industry workers can deliver the advanced capabilities that Australian and New Zealand organisations need.”