Federal government launches $26.5 million grants scheme to boost cyber security workforce

Susie Jones

Cynch Security co-founder and CEO Susie Jones.

A $26.5 million grants program is set to bolster Australia’s cyber security workforce, in a move that could give a boost to the Aussie industry, and start “the right kind of conversations” around cyber.

The Federal government’s Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund is intended to provide both industry participants and education providers with the funding to deliver projects to “improve the quality or availability” of cyber security professionals.

It’s about ensuring a future pipeline of skilled workers in this sector, and it’s specifically targeted at bringing more women into the industry.

The scheme is also designed to build stronger partnerships between the industry and education providers.

Grants of between $250,000 and $3 million will available for projects that see partnering entities working together to “build the next generation of cyber security experts”, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said in a statement.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Susie Jones, co-founder and chief of cyber security startup Cynch Security, welcomes the measure, saying she’s actually “really impressed” with the scheme.

“It’s a decent amount of budget for starters,” she says.

“I really do think it’s going to encourage the right kind of programs and the right kind of investment.”

The right kind of conversations

While Jones notes we have been hearing about the skills shortage in cyber security for some time, one of the biggest issues faced by the industry is there are not many entry-level roles available.

That means employers are going to be less inclined to invest in hiring a junior employee who doesn’t already have experience and a deep skillset. It also means cyber security is a difficult industry to move into from something else, and it means we don’t have tech talent coming through the pipeline.

The grants scheme could allow businesses to create those entry-level roles “and therefore increase the skills of the industry overall”, Jones explains.

She sees this scheme as a good way to get organisations to invest in the future of the workforce, rather than only focusing on their immediate needs today.

But, beyond this, she sees this is something that will drive conversations around cyber security more generally, bringing it forward in the public consciousness, and bringing it front-of-mind for small business owners Cynch was founded to support.

Last year, the government announced its Cyber Security Business Connect and Protect grants scheme, providing funding for organisations that create awareness among small businesses.

“All of these initiatives help demystify cyber security,” Jones says.

They not only highlight cyber security as something businesses should be thinking about, but as something that is accessible for them to address, and something they can manage.

“It all adds up to the right sort of conversations.”

Who can apply?

In order to be eligible, applicants must submit a joint application of at least two organisations, with one lead organisation driving the project.

Funding will cover 50% of project costs, and applicants must be able to show they can complete the project and meet the remaining costs.

Applications will be assessed on four criteria:

  • How it will improve the quality or availability of cyber security professionals in an innovative way;
  • How it will improve collaboration between industry and education providers;
  • The organisations’ capacity, resources and capability to deliver on the project; and
  • The impact the grant funding would have on the project.

Some $13 million is expected to be available for round one of the program. Applications are open now, and close on March 11, 2021.

A second round of funding is expected to launch later in the year.


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