Training unemployed neurodivergent adults to fill roles in the cyber security industry

Sep 28, 2023 | Neurodiversity

IASME is a rapidly growing company that helps organisations of all sizes protect themselves against cyber attack.  Continually striving to innovate, IASME look for new ways to protect individuals and organisations from cyber related crime.

The focus on support and protection for all also runs internally, with a culture of well-being and inclusion that makes IASME one of the most inclusive companies to work for in its sector. IASME won the Diversity Award at the National Cyber Awards 2023 and diversity is found at all levels of the company, including senior managers. The company is headed by a female CEO and 49% of the company are women. 47% of IASME employees identify as neurodivergent and 28% of the team have a disability and this is supported by flexible working practices.

Dr. Emma Philpott MBE, CEO of The IASME Consortium says, “IASME aims to have a very diverse team because we truly believe that this is what makes our company successful. We benefit from the range of perspectives and skills and this allows us to innovate and deliver in a way we could not otherwise achieve”.

The UK Cyber Security Forum (UKCSF) is a community interest company owned and operated as the social enterprise arm of IASME. IASME’s community projects are managed through the UK Cyber Security Forum and one of those projects has focused on training unemployed neurodivergent adults to fill roles in the cyber security industry . Former Cyber Prevent officer for the West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit, Wendy Barker is Community Projects manager at IASME and leads the scheme. She says, “Cyber security is an industry with a massive skill gap and also one that recognises and acknowledges its lack of diversity. Many neurodiverse individuals have a keen interest in this area of work but are not necessarily being recruited.  Reasons include poor experiences in education or in the workplace and current recruitment practices.”

The 10 week multi-level course includes face to face training, access to Immersive Labs online training platform and guest speakers from a wide variety of cyber security organisations. There is a quiet space available during the on-location training, and a welfare officer providing pastoral support to the trainees. The training provides social as well as technical training and helps the individuals build greater confidence in a safe environment.

Jonathan Ellwood was referred into the first cohort of the neurodiverse training scheme by the NHS in 2018. After the course finished, he so impressed the team, he was offered a job as a Cyber Security Analyst at IASME, gradually increased his hours and becoming Head of the Knowledge Management team where he was responsible for developing new processes, services, business analysis and approved techniques and managing an empowered and diverse team. Jonathan is now Head of Cyber Incident Exercising and Assure Schemes, he says, “There is loads of support at IASME.  Most importantly, they understand neurodiversity, which is half of the battle, and they engage with individuals to find out what works for them. IASME is happy to put in appropriate reasonable adjustments which can vary from person to person and very often those adjustments help everyone, regardless of diagnoses. I am allowed to spend time organising myself, which in turn means I help others and I have always been allowed to work flexibly in terms of hours and location.”

14 trainees from the first cohort of the scheme joined IASME and embarked on cyber security careers. Based on this experience, IASME continues to recruit a high number of neurodivergent talent.

Dr Emma Philpott says“ At IASME, nearly 50% of the company are neurodivergent and they are a major factor in our success. They force us to think differently. Thinking differently is how you innovate and become a market leader.”