The University of Melbourne and Edith Cowan University (ECU) will share $1.91 million of government funding over four years to establish ‘Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence’ (ACCSE).
The funding is part of an effort to “help build the required expertise and job-ready skills” in information security which are desperately needed by Australian industry and government, Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan said in a statement today.
The funding will be sued to encourage more students to undertake studies in cyber security; increase the number of highly qualified post-graduates with job ready skills and provide support for research that addresses key cyber security challenges confronting the nation.
“Our ambition is to attract more of Australia's best and brightest into this critically important area, regardless of their background," Birmingham said today. "Graduates from the successful centres of excellence will be equipped with the best knowledge to meet the needs of the cyber industry, business and government."
“What’s more, the centres will encourage the commercialisation of their cyber security research and benefit Australia’s small and medium sized industries.”
It is expected that the ACCSE will be self-sustaining with ongoing operations funded through student course fees and fee-for-service income, including from Government agencies and the private sector.
The universities will also use the funding to improve the awareness of cyber security issues among the general public. This work includes programs to encourage more school-age children to study STEM subjects related to cyber security, short courses for those already in the workforce and opportunities for TAFE students to move into a university study.
“Encouraging a generation of Australian cyber security professionals is good for our cyber security, good for the economy and good for the young Australians who pursue careers in this area,” Tehan added.
ECU School of Science Executive Dean Professor Andrew Woodward said graduates with cyber security skill were in high and constant demand.
“Cyber security skills are in such high demand we see our best students being offered six figure salaries when they’re only in their second year of a degree. The industry is booming globally right now. It has been for the past decade and will continue to boom into the next decade.” he said.
“Unlike industries such as mining and construction which can boom and bust – we’re only connecting more devices to the internet and that means more demand for cyber security professionals. That demand is being fed by the realisation that companies outside the tech industry need trained cyber security personnel.”
Since 2001 more than 1000 cyber security professionals have graduated from ECU’s cyber security program – one of the longest running programs of its kind in Australia.
The private sector has also been funding cyber security centre’s within universities over recent months. At the end of last year Optus Business formed a partnership with La Trobe University to offer a “market leading” cyber security degree. The partnership followed the launch of the Optus Macquarie University Cyber Security Hub, the result of a $10m dollar between the telco and the Sydney university.
October last year saw the launch of the SEC.EDU Security Engineering Lab at UNSW which was backed by the Commonwealth Bank.
The lack of cyber security professionals is felt more acutely in Australia than in other countries, according to a 2016 survey by US think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The survey’s respondents predicted that 17 per cent of cybersecurity positions advertised by their company would go unfilled by 2020. Nearly 90 per cent of Australian IT decision makers believe there is a shortage of cyber security skills both in their organisation and within the nation.