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Napier Cyber Taster Course Puts Workforce Neurodiversity in the Spotlight

Ross Kelly

,

Quidd

The course, held at Napier’s Merchiston campus, covered a range of topics, including cryptography, Splunk software and network security.

A diverse group of participants have been given valuable insight into the workings of the cybersecurity industry through a new initiative led by Edinburgh Napier University.

Working alongside the Scottish Government and two leading charities, Edinburgh Napier recently developed an eight-day cyber taster course for 12 delegates – selected by two local third sector organisations.

Held at Napier’s Merchiston campus, the course covered a range of topics, including cryptography, Splunk software and network security. Attendees were also given the chance to meet industry experts to learn more about the cyber sector and career opportunities.

Suzanne Dyson, who attended the course, commented: “This was an excellent course with engaging and very helpful tutors – it covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. It was a good quiet space for people on the spectrum. Being able to attend the Big Data conference afterwards was an eye-opening benefit.”

Participants for the taster course were recruited by Into Work, which helps people with disabilities and long-term health conditions find and maintain employment. Participants were also chosen by Autism Initiatives, a charity which works alongside people with autism to provide work placements, training and social activities.

Professor Sally Smith, Dean of the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier, said: “The cybersecurity industry is expanding and its future success relies on access to technical experts. This course offered insights into cybersecurity careers while recognising the strengths of a neurodiverse workforce.”

The programme’s success has helped to raise awareness of neurodiversity among staff at Edinburgh Napier, as well as underlining the need to develop suitable course material for those with complex needs.

During last month’s Big Data in Cyber Security conference, hosted at Napier’s Craiglockhart campus, the unique programme received a boost following discussions over its potential.

Digital Economy Minister Kate Forbes, who spoke at the conference, commented: “Scotland’s like the rest of the world. It needs more people training and applying for jobs in cybersecurity, and we need to make sure we are supporting talent from across society. I’m delighted that this pilot course has been a success.

“Edinburgh Napier University, IntoWork and Autism Initiatives have collaborated effectively to meet the needs of people from different backgrounds, while inspiring them to consider studying for a career in cybersecurity in the future. I hope other universities will consider replicating this project and that more people can be supported to succeed in the study of cybersecurity.”

Plans are currently underway to expand the taster course to run in three locations across Scotland, appealing to a larger pool of prospective participants.

Lynda Mcleod, service delivery manager at Into Work, said: “Into Work was delighted to be involved in this cybersecurity taster with Edinburgh Napier University and Autism Initiatives, giving autistic students the chance to learn more about the industry. Participant feedback has been invaluable and will allow us to shape future courses even better.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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