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NZ's first year for Diploma in Cyber Security a success

By Catherine Knowles
Thu 10 Feb 2022

In the last few years, especially following the outbreak of COVID-19, cyber threats and scams have increased tenfold, requiring businesses and nations to invest more in security measures.

In response to the growing demand for skilled cybersecurity specialists, the Ara Institute of Canterbury established the Diploma in Cyber Security in 2021.

The Diploma is breaking new ground as one of New Zealand’s first cyber-qualifications at the pre-degree level, and the first course of its kind offered in the South Island.

Last year, 50 Ara students successfully took part in the course, developed in collaboration with Datacom and CCL (Computer Concepts Ltd) - two computer industry partners dedicated to helping fill the global labour gap of cyber security professionals.

According to the organisation, with COVID-19 there has been a shift in the day-to-day work of many different industries, and many more people are working from home and conducting their work primarily online.

As a result, the use of digital tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and online cloud-based servers has increased, which ultimately has increased the risk of harmful cyber attacks, especially within large organisations.

A cyber attack is categorised as an attempt to disable or control computer infrastructures to steal data, breach systems, and overall cause complete chaos concerning a business’s reputation and intellectual property.

Throughout this new cyber security diploma, students gained new knowledge needed for addressing potential weaknesses and assessing various vulnerabilities that could arise when working with different tech systems.

They cover topics such as infrastructure, methodology specifics, tools, cryptography, technical cybersecurity management, governance, and standards.

Datacom head of cybersecurity services South Island Nicoleta Croitoru says, "We are interested in seeing motivated young people wanting to make the world a better place by solving cyber security problems. It was an absolute pleasure to help the students find mentors in our organisation."

Nigel Young, head of department for business and digital technologies at the time, stated that he thought part of the reason the course has done so well is due to the incredible internships students got to take part in.

He says, "Our intent for the future is to maintain relatively small numbers so that we can provide quality industry placements. And I think that's why the partnership has been successful in making that happen."

The two partners for the internships were Datacom, New Zealand's largest cybersecurity provider, and CCL, whose technology services are used by some of the country's biggest organisations.

These internships had an apprenticeship approach, involving extensive practical experience of what it's like to work as an ICT professional, the organisation states.

Many of the students were offered to extend their placements and continue with the business once they had graduated. Despite the many challenges they faced in 2021, Ara’s first cohort of cyber-security professionals have now graduated and are heading into professional roles in the sector.

Last year, Ara’s Business and Digital Technologies department held an end-of-year event to celebrate all the students and invited along with industry partners, many of whom supported the course through the internship component.

Young says, "It's been a hard year for those who had to work from home, had to balance families, full-time learning, making money and not being able to access devices when the campus was closed during lockdown. So well done to the students for completing this course."

Intakes for the February and July programmes are still open for all to apply.

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