|Jobs in Cyber-Security|
There is huge untapped potential amongst the people and communities of Gwent, something that has remained largely untapped by successive Welsh Labour governments and largely ignored by more distant Westminster governments.
There are real opportunities for growth and the re-industrialisation of our region, but the Welsh Labour Government continues to be content to remain sitting on its hands, unwilling to properly invest in our future.
Most of us would prefer not to see Newport and the Gwent Valleys become little more than a commuter belt for Bristol and Cardiff. Our communities have an identity and a history of their own that it would be tragic to lose and remain too vibrant to be simply written off.
At present Welsh Government spending on research and development remains far below the European average. We need to be aiming to at least match the EU average level of investment if we are to kick-start a realistic return of industry, manufacturing jobs and research and design.
Plaid Cymru’s Steffan Lewis has rightly called for the establishment of an advanced institute of manufacturing to be set up in the Valleys to bring desperately needed funding to the region. This, if it is done right, could deliver better quality apprenticeships.
The percentage of young people in Wales doing apprenticeships in manufacturing fell from 6% in 2006/7 to just 2% in 2014/15. The percentage of apprentices in engineering fell to 8% of all apprenticeships. This grim statistic should raise the question as to whether we are seriously equipping our young people with the skills they need to thrive in a increasingly competitive world.
To be fair there have been some very positive developments in Newport which could have implications right across our region and beyond. The National Cyber-Security Academy, based in the University of South Wales, for example, is providing students in Newport with highly valued, cutting edge skills.
The Welsh Government has so far failed to seize the chance to build on that legacy by designating Newport as the cyber-security capital of Wales. Where we have strengths, we should be building on them and growing our expertise.
The University of South Wales’s innovative project aims to help address a shortage of cyber security skills and develop the next generation of cyber security experts. The pilot National Cyber Security Academy (NCSA), the first of its kind in Wales and a major UK initiative, has been set up at USW’s Newport City Campus.
The project also involves Welsh digital innovation company Innovation Point and major industry players – including Airbus, General Dynamics UK, Alert Logic, Information Assurance, QinetiQ, Silcox Information Security, Westgate Cyber, Wolfberry and the South Wales Cyber Security Cluster – the NCSA will work to close an expected skills gap in the cyber security sector. <
By 2019 it is forecast that an additional 4.5 million personnel will be needed worldwide. The NCSA builds on plans for a £60m Newport Knowledge Quarter, which would see USW work in partnership with Coleg Gwent to build a new learning campus in the city’s riverbank area.
With some funding from the Welsh Government, the £500,000 pilot initiative involves a cohort of current USW Computer Forensics and Computer Security undergraduates. They will work on real-world projects set by NCSA partners, while also ‘flight testing’ the course to ensure it meets the latest cyber security challenges.
The project will develop as industry partners identify new challenges in the cyber security environment. If the pilot is successful, the University will quickly build up the student numbers through the delivery of a full-time dedicated degree programme in Applied Cyber Security.
I don’t think that it is unreasonable for want everyone in Gwent to have access to the well-paid, skilled, high quality jobs, close to home that they want. If our region is to meet the challenges of the years ahead, we need to be investing now to generate economic development and to safeguard our future.
Far too many of our people living across our region feel, that there aren’t enough jobs nearby and that the jobs that are available are often temporary or on insecure, zero hours contracts. We need to move beyond the vague sound bites of the Welsh Labour Government when it comes to economic development; we need proper planning and some action rather than words.