Major funding round set to unlock UK’s cyber talent
CAPSLOCK Education, a cyber security education organisation based in Manchester, has secured £540,000 in a pre-seed funding round from GC Angels, the Ufi VocTech Trust, Tynton Group, private angel investors and the UK government to reskill adults across the UK.
Founded in 2019 by Dr Andrea Cullen, Jonathan Slater and Lorna Armitage, CAPSLOCK’s intensive training bootcamp reskills adults into cyber security professionals within six months. Designed in collaboration with industry leaders including Lloyds Banking Group, BT and Dell, the course has a strong careers-outcome focus, equipping learners with the necessary skills to pursue high-paying, competitive roles in cyber security. Learners also have the option to gain five industry-recognised cyber certifications alongside their studies, further enhancing their employability.
The round follows the Prime Minister’s announcement that the North West will become home to a new National Cyber Force Centre, aiming to create a ‘cyber corridor’ across the North of England. CAPSLOCK has already created a number of highly-paid jobs in the region, with its Manchester-based team of six set to grow over the next 4-6 weeks.
CAPSLOCK was developed by the founding team in response to the UK’s large and growing cyber skills gap. Drawing from their professional backgrounds in cyber security consultation, education and recruitment, they recognised the opportunity to help adults in need of a career change transition into the world of cyber.
The course itself covers a broad spectrum of cyber fundamentals, including business understanding, cyber ethics and culture, governance, risk and compliance, offensive and defensive security, and cloud security. The classes revolve around team-based learning and problem-based learning, meaning learners work towards solving real-world cyber security problems as part of a team. This simulates a realistic working environment, and creates an immersive learning experience which encourages engagement, exploration, innovation, and confidence.
As with many industries, cyber suffers from a stark lack of diversity in many forms, including gender, ethnicity, and neurodiversity. Increasing the diversity of the cyber workforce is high on CAPSLOCK’s list of priorities. They enrolled 85 learners on their inaugural cohorts in February and March 2021. Of these, 32% were women and 35% were from ethnic minority backgrounds, more than double the average representation on a university degree in a similar subject. 50% of their tutoring team are women and 56% of their industry mentors are women too.
Speaking about why increasing diversity is such a key motivator for the company, CAPSLOCK Co-founder Dr. Andrea Cullen said: “The more our cyber workforce reflects the diversity of our society, the better our cyber solutions will be. At CAPSLOCK, we are committed to removing the traditional barriers which have prevented people of all genders, ethnic backgrounds and walks of life from entering the cyber industry. There are huge amounts of untapped talent in these demographics, and we want to help people access the education and support that will unlock their potential.”
The successful acquisition of their recent funding round will also allow CAPSLOCK remove the financial barriers to retraining. Chiefly, this will involve the continuation of their Income Share Agreement scheme. An Income Share Agreement is an alternative to up-front tuition fees, allowing CAPSLOCK learners to take the course without paying for it beforehand. Instead, learners agree to pay back a percentage of their future income over a set period of time, but only once they are employed and earning over £27,000.
Of its first cohort of 85 students, 77 opted for an ISA, meaning CAPSLOCK deferred over £700,000 in tuition fees so learners could join with no up-front costs. This makes CAPSLOCK the largest provider of Income Share Agreements in the UK.
Speaking about her decision to join the course with an Income Share Agreement, CAPSLOCK learner Tara-Jane said: “With three kids and a year of lockdown, the ISA was the only option I had to access funding to retrain. I would not have the opportunity to learn at CAPSLOCK without it.”
Aware that the inability to afford large up-front costs for education is one of the largest barriers for adults looking to switch careers, CAPSLOCK’s successful funding round will ensure that their courses remain accessible to all, regardless of their current financial circumstances.
Funding Round Success
After participating in the University of Central Lancashire’s Investment Readiness programme, CAPSLOCK was introduced to GC Angels, the North West’s most active early-stage investor. GC Angels introduced the business to the Ufi VocTech Trust, an investment unit focused on the delivery of vocational learning, and a number of private angel investors.
The £350,000 equity investment, which comprised of £100,000 from GC Angels, £100,000 from Ufi VocTech Trust and £140,000 from Tynton Group was bolstered by £190,000 in government-backed funding. This consisted of £50,000 through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and a £140,000 grant from Innovate UK, bringing the total investment round to over half a million.
Jonathan Slater, Co-founder of CAPSLOCK Education, said: “At a time when the value of tech degrees is in decline, there is an urgent need for disruption in cyber-security education. At CAPSLOCK, we’re determined to drive this disruption. By unlocking the potential of adults in the UK, and eliminating the financial barriers to reskilling, we’re changing the face of cyber-security and making it more accessible to people of all backgrounds.
“This funding round from GC Angels, Ufi VocTech Trust, Tynton Group, our private investors, and the UK government has been absolutely transformative for CAPSLOCK, enabling us to expand our team and invest in our first cohorts. We’re so excited to drive further growth over the coming years, and to continue the conversation around the need for upskilling in cyber-security in the UK.”
For more information about CAPSLOCK and their ground-breaking retraining courses, visit https://capslock.ac.