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Cybersecurity internships help graduates secure rewarding careers

  • Liam Elliot_Cybersecurity_datacom
    Unitec cybersecurity learner Liam Elliott secured a role at Datacom after graduating with the help of industry internships

Unitec’s New Zealand Diploma in Cybersecurity is helping New Zealanders secure rewarding careers in this rapidly growing sector. Introduced in 2020, the level 6, one-year diploma is accompanied by a year-long industry internship that gives learners real-world skills that help them to quickly advance into full-time employment.

It is a field with ample opportunity for learners. According to a recent Cybersecurity report, employment in the sectors needs to grow by at least 89% worldwide to meet the anticipated demand, with 56% of organisations saying that they are at risk due to cybersecurity staff shortage.

Dila Beisembayeva, Lead, Centre for Digital Innovation and Skills, says it is this critical skills shortage that saw industry leaders approach Unitec about developing a cybersecurity programme that would quickly get learners into the workforce with work-ready skills.

This led to the creation of the New Zealand Diploma in Cybersecurity and internships were a key component of this, says Dila. “The goal was to create a qualification that would allow learners to study the latest in cybersecurity and also open the door to the industry for them.”

The first year of the diploma in 2020 generated strong interest among learners interested in entering the cybersecurity workforce for the first time or to retrain.

After doing his internship with Spark while studying the diploma, former School of Computing student Liam Elliot subsequently joined Datacom in a graduate role in January after completing his studies.

He had moved into the cybersecurity pathway when the NZ Diploma became available in 2020 after completing a Level 5 Diploma in Information Systems, and the big pull of that course was the opportunity to get internships with leading companies, he says, and it has proven very worthwhile.

“Cybersecurity has exceeded my expectations—there is so much to learn, and it is an interesting field, there is always something new, it never gets stale.”

Liam is currently working in the Security of Operations Centre at Datacom and plans to work towards a Level 2 certification as a SOC analyst.

“Everyone is super supportive and helpful, and if you’re interested in cybersecurity, the diploma is probably the best course you can do—no other course puts you into the workplace and teaches you what is happening in the real world, he says.

“The internships are unique and vital—you could get into the field if you didn’t do them, but having them and creating connections in the field,  as well as recommendations from people about what you should learn is crucial for this space as it’s ever-evolving and you have to be up to date with it.

It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it; security is essential and I think we are a bit behind other players as we don’t have as many professionals, the more we have the better it is for New Zealand.”

Internships are vital

Xanthe Smit, Datacom’s marketing manager for cybersecurity says internships are vital to help fill the massive skills gap.

“The other advantage of it is that while doing the degree, students are getting the work experience they need to get a job. It is really hard to break into the industry, so if we have a diploma that gives on-the-job training at the same time, then students leave the course with a year’s experience.”

While at Datacom, interns are placed in the security operations centre where they get hands-on with the tools that they will use, including best-of-class solutions, and technology that is highly rated in the industry, she says.

“We partner them with our experienced senior security analysts so they can learn what it takes day-to-day to make a success out of it, and we expose them to the various parts of the company,” she says.

“Working with Unitec meant the diploma was structured so that by the time learners have finished, they hit the ground running, they know how the industry works and getting them into full-time employment is a lot easier as we already know their capabilities,” she says.

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