Govt launches $26.5m cyber skills grant program

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

Grants of up to $3 million are on offer for cybersecurity training programs as part of a $26.5 million national cybersecurity strategy initiative officially launched by the federal government this week.

The first round of the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund was opened on Thursday, with grants of between $250,000 and $3 million on offer for applicants looking to “improve the quality and availability of cybersecurity professionals through training”.

The grants will fund up to 50 percent of a cyber skills program, which will have to be a joint application from at least two partner organisations which may include universities, high schools, industry associations, state and local governments and businesses.

Eligible activities for the grants include developing and delivering specialist cybersecurity courses for individuals, retraining programs, professional development, apprenticeships, new internships or cadetships and cyber labs and training facilities.

There will be $13 million available as part of the first funding round, which will be aimed at building career pathways in the cybersecurity sector as part of Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19, industry minister Karen Andrews said.

“The Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund will support partnerships between industry, education providers and governments to build the next generation of cybersecurity experts,” Ms Andrews said in a statement.

“Cybersecurity is essential to our digital economy and needs to be strong in all areas, particularly in small and medium enterprises which comprise 98 percent of all Australian businesses. This fund builds on our commitment to keep Australians secure online, and to support building industry capability.”

The fund was one of the initiatives included in the Cybersecurity National Workforce Growth Program, one of the deliverables under the Morrison government’s Cyber Security Strategy, unveiled last year.

The grants will help to build on the other initiatives included in this strategy, home affairs minister Peter Dutton said.

“Having more people trained in cybersecurity will build on the other measures funded as part of our $1.67 billion strategy to keep Australians safe online and protect against cyber attacks from malicious actors including cyber criminals,” Mr Dutton said.

The first round will close on 11 March, with a second round expected to open before the end of the year.

The fund was one of few initiatives in the strategy targeted at the local cybersecurity sector, with little focus on building the burgeoning industry.

This was criticised by Labor cybersecurity spokesperson Tim Watts.

“It looks like the government has given up on developing and growing the Australian cybersecurity industry altogether. There was no commitment on industry policy, on local content, on procurement, on SME involvement, or on maximising R&D spend to grow the Australian industry,” Mr Watts said.

“During a recession, when we are trying to build sustainable, high-wage jobs for the Australian recovery post COVID-19, it is inexplicable that industry development seems to be completely missing from this strategy.”

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