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The North West ‘Cyber Corridor’: What you need to know

Posted June 19, 2024

What the growth of the North West means for the Cyber community

For the tech and digital sectors, the North West region is growing from strength to strength. This is true especially for the world of Cyber security. The need for enhanced Cyber security is now engrained in our day to day lives, from protection against a simple scam to massive company data breaches. On a national level the way that wars are fought and won is changing, they are less in the physical world and more in cyber space.

This short blog aims to provide information regarding the Government’s priority of Cyber security at a national level, how the creation of the National Cyber Force directly supports that strategy and from there how a Cyber ecosystem has been created in the North West region.

The National Cyber Strategy 2022

In 2022 the UK Government released their National Cyber Strategy, enforcing the importance of strengthening Cyber security on a national level and establishing the UK as a responsible and democratic cyber power.

To do this the strategy is built around five core pillars:

  • Strengthening the UK cyber ecosystem, investing in our people and skills and deepening the partnership between government, academia and industry
  • Building a resilient and prosperous digital UK, reducing cyber risks so businesses can maximise the economic benefits of digital technology and citizens are secure online and confident that their data is protected
  • Taking the lead in the technologies vital to cyber power, building our industrial capability and developing frameworks to secure future technologies
  • Advancing UK global leadership and influence for a more secure, prosperous and open international order, working with government and industry partners and sharing the expertise that underpins UK cyber power
  • Detecting, disrupting and deterring our adversaries to enhance UK security in and through cyberspace, making more integrated, creative and routine use of the UK’s full spectrum of levers

This strategy is representative of how the UK will defence itself in Cyber space, how it will boost the tech sector and therefore the economy but mostly also how it will be perceived by other nations. The biggest example of the UK Government’s commitment to Cyber defence is the creation of the National Cyber Force.

The National Cyber Force

In November 2020 the National Cyber Force (NCF) was announced – a partnership between intelligence and defence. A joint venture of GCHQ, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

The aim of the NCF is simple, to protect the UK. It will do this in 3 ways;

  • Countering threats from terrorists, criminals and states using the internet to operate across borders in order to do harm to the UK and other democratic societies.
  • Countering threats which disrupt the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data and services in cyberspace (i.e. supporting cybersecurity).
  • Contributing to UK Defence operations and helping deliver the UK’s foreign policy agenda (for example intervening in a humanitarian crisis to protect civilians).

NCF Headquarters are based in Samlesbury, Lancashire, cementing the North West region as the Cyber hub of the UK. With plans to hold 3000 employees it is both an economic and skills boost. In an area of excellent technical academia and creative minds, it will not only provide alternative career opportunities but also bring a new and exciting diverse workforce for the UK Government/ Intelligence Services which can only bring further benefit.

The aims and objectives of the NCF can directly be related to the national Cyber Strategy. Yes, it will be an intelligence hub for cyber defence but more so it’s collaborative nature with SME’s and academia will mean huge advancements in forward thinking tech and nurturing of skills. The movement towards the North West brings the spotlight to a vibrant digital economy where an exciting ecosystem is starting to emerge.

The Cyber Corridor

The ‘Cyber Corridor’ as it has now aptly been named is much larger than just the stretch between Manchester and Lancashire, it also includes Liverpool, Cumbria and Cheshire and Warrington.

In a report from Lancaster University it is estimated that the North West region has 300 cyber security companies. This is an extensive network of larger providers, SME’s and consultancies supporting all sectors. In support of the joint venture of NCF many large ‘Primes’ have also established a presence in the region where they may typically have been found in the London and South West areas.

Their findings on economic potential shows extraordinary growth of up to £2.7bn per annum in Gross Value Added for the North West economy, and could cumulatively generate £22.4bn in GVA for the North West between 2022 – 2035.

Whilst the North West region has an outstanding Higher Education presence offering Cyber and IT based courses, the skills gap is something that still needs to be addressed. The education and awareness is happening for future generations but this immediate drive for growth depends on those already in the sector. Additionally to that, for the Defence, Government and National Security sectors there is a further reduction in available skilled talent due to security clearances and presence in the region. A large portion of this experienced community are in the South West and London areas where the work has historically been so there must either be an incentive for those to move, which can be costly, or a thought to how we can revolutionise the process for local talent.

How do I get involved?

Get involved in the community! If you’re reading this then you’re already on your way but an active contribution in the network would provide massive benefit.

Membership for the North West Cyber Security Cluster is free to anyone based in the North West with an interest in cybersecurity. Via UK Cyber Cluster Collaboration(UKC3) there are similar clusters for other UK regions.

NWCSC hold regular webinars and in person events across the region for both knowledge gain and networking with your peers. Their next event will be on 28th June in Salmesbury looking at ‘The Fight Against Cyber Threats’.

This is a fast moving sector so I would urge you to be aware of changes within the market and to work with experts in the area, it’s important to keep a keen eye on the action and access to opportunity. Sanderson Government and Defence is very proud to be partnered with several Cyber organisations and to directly support NCF and the wider Cyber network.

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Is AI making applying for a job worse than online dating?

Posted June 14, 2024

There is a worrying trend beginning to come into the world of recruitment and that is the proliferation of AI bots doing the filtering. I get it, there is a need for more automation, more sifting, more ability to filter to get to the best candidate. But if you take the human element out of a recruitment process you risk alienating the lifeblood of your business, the thing that makes your organisation tick, and probably a subset of your potential customer base – your people!

The rise and risks of Automation in the interview process

But worse still….the AI bot that is dehumanising the selection process is being counter punched by the AI generated cover letter and CV. These can be cleverly structured in 10 minutes by a large language model on behalf of a candidate who is gaming the application of AI at the other end of the process.

This can even roll over into online interviews. Some interviewers in a quest to reduce time and thinking could look to ask AI to generate a series of interview questions for the job role they are hiring for, only then to also be met by responses that are being real-time generated by AI by the candidate at the other end of the call to deliver the best possible response.

A worrying future of AI in recruitment processes?

Research conducted by Bright Minds indicated that 38% of applicants are now using AI to enhance their applications. Let’s face it – that number is only going to increase as AI becomes more ubiquitous and available.

And whilst my framing may be slightly glib, how far away are we from regular instances where AI assessment bots are assessing AI generated applications as a matter of course. Where does this end?

As I referenced in my previous post the recruitment word has changed. The expectation of feedback on a CV has gone, in fact CV feedback that is richer than an acknowledgement is an absolute rarity. More worrying, increasingly interview feedback is disappearing unless you are successful. And whilst AI can definitely reduce the admin burden on both sides of the process, it should be used to free up more time to be spent on human interaction – not less. And I fear that we are into a worrying cycle of less human interaction.

Breaking the AI cycle

The ultimate impact is that the candidate keeps swiping (much like one might when using popular dating apps, only to apply for jobs); and then more successful interviews end in rejection because something better came along for them.

Meanwhile the client keeps swiping too – letting AI assess more and more candidates. This results in more candidates being ghosted, and so the loop becomes a spiral, and the spiral becomes habit and things just simply get worse – until someone breaks that cycle. I believe we need to re-insert high quality human interaction into critical stages in the recruitment process.

I would say this though, wouldn’t I?! In a specialist, talent scarce, sector where human interaction is critical – many stones must be turned over to find the right person for the roles that we engage on. Yet at the same time we are increasingly being asked to comply with processes that have elements of what I have discussed above – because organisations think this works for volume hires – but for me it’s a slippery slope.

There is no substitute for high quality conversations, the building of relationships irrespective of outcome, and professional engagement at every stage of the process.

At Sanderson Government and Defence, we value building long-term relationships and owning the problem through to completion. We know from over 20 years in the talent solution business that this approach builds better teams and makes for a more resilient and cohesive workforce.

If you’d like to chat more about your recruitment needs and the bespoke solutions we could provide you in your recruitment processes, please do get in touch.

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Unmasking the Imposter: Empowering Women to Lean into Success

Posted May 20, 2024

Imposter syndrome, is a widely researched phenomenon and is a common experience for professionals at varying points in their careers, affecting our self-perception and professional growth.

Picture this scenario: you have tirelessly worked towards your objectives, achieving significant milestones and securing your ideal position. Externally, everything appears perfect. However, internally, you wrestle with doubts about your competence, despite external affirmations of your capabilities. What makes this worse is that, The International Journal of Behavioural Science reveals that unfortunately, approximately 70% of individuals encounter imposter syndrome at some point, highlighting its prevalence.

A primary catalyst for imposter syndrome is often, the toxic habit of comparison. In an era dominated by social media, it is all too easy to view others curated successes and question your own accomplishments or progress. Research indicates that, historically women, in particular, were more susceptible to imposter syndrome, frequently attributing their achievements to external factors rather than recognising their own skills, efforts, and successes. That being said, more recent studies indicate that it affects both men and women nearly equally, although they may experience it differently due to social and cultural factors.

With this in mind, what can you do to combat the overwhelming and grossly unwelcome feeling that is imposter syndrome?

Acknowledging Success

As someone in their late twenties, I have come to realise the importance of consciously acknowledging and celebrating personal achievements, regardless of their scale. Each success, no matter how modest, contributes significantly to our overall growth and self-perception. Finding time in each day to acknowledge successes, can be one of the ways that you can begin to overcome imposter syndrome. I myself have struggled in the past, when it comes to talking openly about successes, as I’ve been consumed with anxiety that it would be considered ‘bragging’, when in reality, sharing successes no matter how large or small can leave you feeling both recognised and empowered.

The Power of Vulnerability

Discussing imposter syndrome can be intimidating, yet there is strength in vulnerability. I have found comfort in sharing my experiences with friends, family, and colleagues. Openness often reveals that many share similar challenges, making vulnerability an invaluable tool for fostering connections and personal development. As humans, we can often be guilty of making decisions based on assumptions. By allowing yourself to be more vulnerable, to can begin gain much more exposure and insight of others experiences and challenges.

Fostering Self-Compassion

Developing self-compassion is an ongoing endeavour. In my journey, I am learning to dispel the myth of perfection and embrace mistakes as vital learning opportunities. By nature, I can be very hard on myself, and have worked tirelessly over the last couple of years avoid feelings and urges to leave on a high, rather than embracing mistakes and using them to better myself. It’s also key to strive to extend the same kindness and understanding to myself that I would offer others.

Building a Supportive Network

Building and maintaining a supportive professional and personal network is vital in overcoming imposter syndrome. This network should include mentors, peers, and friends who can provide honest feedback, encouragement, and share their own experiences with imposter feelings. By seeing how others have navigated similar challenges, you can gain perspective on individuals experiences and feel less isolated in future struggles. Networking groups, professional associations, and social media platforms can be excellent resources for building these connections.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Developing a growth mindset, is particularly beneficial for combatting imposter syndrome. This involves shifting focus from proving competence to developing it. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and understand that effort and learning are part of the journey to mastery. By valuing growth over perfection, you can more easily recognise your progress and feel less like imposter.

Setting Realistic Expectations and Boundaries

We often face societal pressures to excel in multiple roles, which can exacerbate feelings of imposter syndrome. It’s important to set realistic expectations for oneself and establish clear boundaries. This might mean saying no to additional responsibilities when you’re already stretched thin or setting aside time for self-care and personal development. Recognising that you cannot be everything to everyone is a crucial step in overcoming imposter feelings.

Practicing Self-Affirmation

Positive Self-Talk Self-affirmation practices can be powerful tools in combating negative thoughts and imposter syndrome. This involves regularly reminding oneself of personal strengths, achievements, and unique qualities. Positive self-talk helps in reframing negative thoughts that contribute to feelings of being an imposter. Instead of thinking, “I don’t belong here,” one might reframe this as, “I was chosen for my skills and I bring a unique perspective.”

Seeking Professional Guidance

Sometimes, the most effective strategy in overcoming imposter syndrome is seeking professional guidance. This can include talking to a mentor, a career coach, or a therapist who specialises in career-related challenges. These professionals can provide personalised strategies and support to help women understand and navigate their imposter feelings.

I recognise that overcoming imposter syndrome is not a one-time event but a continuous process of self-discovery and personal development. It’s about stepping into your power, recognising your worth, and understanding that your voice and contributions are valid and needed. Through supportive networks, a growth mindset, realistic expectations, positive self-talk, and professional guidance, women can not only overcome imposter syndrome but also thrive in their personal and professional lives.

If you have a talent project or require support creating your employer value proposition and talent programme, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Click here to book a meeting with Mollie.


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How do we deal with the rise of ghosting in the interview process?

Posted May 15, 2024

Sadly, and I think this is a direct product of automated processes, ghosting has become more and more common in the hiring process and is one of the biggest pain points for candidates in today’s job market.

What is interview ghosting?

This refers to the ceasing of all communication with a candidate after the interview.

As an interesting aside here, this is an extrapolation of the CV ghosting problem that arose as a product of email/internet/outsourcing (god this makes me feel old) many years ago. When I began a career in recruitment, some 30 years ago, the delivery of a candidate was personally done (often by hand, if not by fax – look it up youngsters!) with an associated conversation, giving the opportunity for full feedback loops to both sides. As a consequence all candidates got feedback on their CV submissions.

We lamented it when this disappeared, and in the main it has not returned – and is probably a product of busy hiring managers not having the time to feedback, processes not having the time to feedback, a lack of appetite for confrontation, or a societal shift to not wanting to deliver bad news.

What is the interview process?

The investment of energy from various parties to get to this point is significant, there is:

  • the sourcing of the candidates (either through attraction or search, there is a cost associated with this);
  • the processing of the application (manual, automated or otherwise, there is a requirement for people and systems to get the application to the correct person);
  • then the review and subsequent organisation of the interview itself;
  • and finally the interview, or series of interviews (often involving more than one person and more than one instance)

And then whilst the successful candidate is inevitably engaged (they wouldn’t be successful otherwise), what is the brand damage, and cost, associated with the unsuccessful interviewee’s?

The impact of being interview ghosted

The cold avoidance of full and frank feedback is disorientating and discouraging for the candidate. It is hard for them to not feel as though their time and efforts have been wasted, and inevitably they feel taken advantage of. They also have no idea where they missed the mark for the client, and what if they were a close fit, what if they could be suitable for another role, what if their experience develops over the coming months and they become suitable?

They in effect become a lost candidate to the business due to past experience, and in this day and age of critical candidate shortages that seems either short sighted or a touch arrogant.

Moving forwards

And so our message to hirers is don’t ghost. Give full and frank feedback to all interviewee’s, you never know when they may become a candidate again, or in specialist markets when they may be interviewing you in the future!

And to candidates, this isn’t your fault and is not just happening to you. This is fast becoming a standard in a market that is at risk of over processing and removing critical human touch points in the hiring process. All that nonresponse means is that you are not the front runner for the position that you were going for, so perhaps make the assumption you were a close second and move onto the next opportunity.

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Future-proofing Cyber Security & Engineering Capabilities

Posted May 13, 2024

Working in partnership with a leading technology-led defence and security solutions company, we successfully helped our client by sourcing, assessing and placing a diverse talent pool into their bespoke cyber security 6-month training programme. The project resulted in the onboarding of a cohort individuals, providing them with long term career prospects and enabling our client to futureproof their cyber security and engineering capabilities.

What was the challenge?

Exploring the criticality of establishing bespoke training initiatives and programmes to contribute to a sustainable and resilient cybersecurity ecosystem. The demand for cybersecurity professionals has surged in recent years, driven by the abundance of digital technologies, and the increasing frequency of cyber threats. As organisations race to fortify their defences against cyber threats, the scarcity of qualified cybersecurity talent has emerged as a bottleneck, threatening the very foundations of digital resilience.

What was the ask?

The initiative encompassed the attraction, recruitment, assessment, and onboarding of 15 individuals with diverse backgrounds and a passion for cybersecurity. These individuals then had to undergo a tailored six-month training program within their initial 12 months of employment. Following the training programme, individuals were aligned with national security projects within Cyber Engineering or Vulnerability Research capabilities. This program was designed to cater to a diverse pool of participants, including career returners, recent graduates, school leavers, and career changers.

What were the actions?

  • Established a comprehensive project planning framework led by a committed project owner and a dedicated delivery team
  • Orchestrated a highly effective marketing campaign comprising of podcasts, blogs, employee interviews, and infographics
  • Collaborated and partnered with key organisations and educational institutions to facilitate diversification efforts
  • Regularly conducted reporting on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) initiatives
  • Successfully implemented and maintained a technical assessment platform
  • Provided support and guidance around security clearance eligibility
  • Concluded with a thorough project review report covering output analysis
  • Generated comprehensive market insights encompassing diversity, equity, and inclusion (ED&I), remuneration, geographical considerations, and educational qualifications

What were the outputs?

  • Effectively sourced, assessed and placed 15 qualified candidates in specified locations within 4 months
  • 100% of responsive individuals answered that they found the recruitment process positive, or very positive
  • Created an extensive talent pool for future cohorts
  • Over 20% of submissions identified as female – We helped create ED&I initiatives to support future recruitment
  • 95% offer acceptance rate

Client Feedback

We wanted to offer long-term careers to high-potential individuals, who will become tomorrow’s tech leads and SMEs. With the support and expertise from Sanderson Government & Defence we have successfully recruited 15 candidates onto this year’s programme with a range of skillsets and capabilities, all of whom will have the opportunity to develop and achieve within our organisation. We have looked for candidates from outside the existing community, including those from non-traditional backgrounds with self-taught skills.

The Sanderson Government & Defence team are highly engaged, responsive and proactive in their approach to recruitment. They supported with technical assessment platforms, and providing support for the on-boarding of new starters. Sanderson have also provided useful data addressing things like equity, diversity and inclusion of applicants.”

Contact our specialist team to find out more

Mollie Chamberlain – Head of Projects, Government & Defence

+44 7710 280 877

[email protected]

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Java Developers in the Defence Sector: What Does the Future Hold?

Posted April 29, 2024

Responsible for developing and implementing many business-critical applications and software platforms, Java Developers have for a long time held specialised and essential roles in many defence sector organisations.  

But as we move through Q4, will the demand for security cleared Java Developers still be as strong?  

In this opinion piece, Sanderson’s Head of Recruitment Services for our Government & Defence team James Corcoran gives his thoughts on the current state of the market as well as his projections for the future of Java Developers in the defence sector.  

The current state of the Government & Defence sector job market 

In good news for the government & defence sector, we’re seeing indications that the market is slowly rebounding. This is driven largely by contract demand as security organisations continue to be cautious after a year of rationalisation.  

Certain roles are tending to have more demand than others, and a Java Developer is one of these in demand skill sets. This could account for the 8% increase in salary costs that we saw between Q2 2023 and Q3 2023.  

Software roles in demand 

Java is one of the most popular programming languages used in enterprise companies, yet despite this 8% salary increase, is it set to start losing ground in terms of companies wanting to hire these skills?  

There are several surveys which do actually show a decline starting. In fact StackOverflow’s Developer survey recorded a drop from 33.3% to 30.6%, whilst the TIOBE index in October 2023 showed that Java’s year-on-year rating had dropped by 3.9%. 

What does the future hold for Java Developers and the associated talent pool? 

A big question in my mind is, are we going to see a further decline?  

Certainly, Oracle’s decision to stop all security updates for Java 8 without a support agreement is a warning shot. This coupled with their decision to change their pricing model to a new one that, according to Gartner, could cost organisations from 2 to 5 times more in annual licensing costs, only fuels speculation for Java’s decline. 

In my opinion though, Java is not going anywhere. 

It’s still the fourth in TIOBE’s Programming Index, and combined with the salary increases we’ve seen, it’s a proven, secure, and safe programming language with a significant adoption rate in many organisations.  

Over the next 12-18 months I believe the Java talent pool will skew to the later generations, with more experienced candidates and, as a result, be more contract-driven over the next few years.  

Our talent solution 

If you want to stay ahead of the curve and ensure you’re hiring the right security cleared candidate in the Java Development field for your organisation, we can help.  

As specialists in sourcing hard to find talent we will always solve your talent problems through to completion. You can find out more about our Government & Defence Recruitment services here. 

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch and let me know how I can help you. 

James Corcoran, Head of Recruitment

[email protected], +44 (0) 748 430 0887   

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Sanderson Government & Defence launches Extended Talent & Services for Cabinet Office

Posted April 26, 2024

We are delighted to have been awarded a Vendor Neutral Managed Service into two key divisions of the Cabinet Office, namely Government Digital Services (GDS) and the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO).

Our service, launched in April this year, is branded as Extended Talent and Services (ETS) reflecting the programme ambitions to capture a wide-ranging pool of DDaT and Commercial talent to augment civil service and partner delivered resources.

The key aims for the programme are:

  • Implementation of an ambitious sourcing strategy providing multiple routes to market. To deliver a talent partner solution that helps GDS and CDDO remain competitive in the market and to make improved strategic sourcing decisions.
  • Reductions in time-to-fill rates, whilst increasing and improving engagement with key strategic suppliers who specialise in the supply of workers across DDaT and Commercial areas.
  • Access to quality market research, talent market trends and accurate pricing data to support more informed decision making and offer choice.
  • Implement market leading technology to reduce the admin and contractual burden, ensure all processes are transparent, and offer real-time and supportive reporting

Commenting on this latest win, Nick Walrond, Managing Director of Sanderson Government & Defence said;

“We look forward to forging a long term and successful partnership with the GDS and CDDO teams, whilst building trusted and effective relationships with the critical supply chain. Our aim is to offer a route for new suppliers to be able to be onboarded quickly and easily in alignment with the future skills challenges faced by these key areas of government.”
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Meet our Government & Defence team at the Security Cleared Expo Bristol

Posted April 11, 2024

Our Government and Defence team are going to be at the Security Cleared Expo in Bristol later this month.

As the leading innovative government and defence talent specialist, we are recognised for delivering exceptional teams into a wide range of clients.

We only recruit for the UK government and their critical supply chains, including: Ministry of Defence (MOD) and areas of National Security; Central Government and Arm’s Length Bodies; National Policing and Justice; and the broader Public Sector.

Come and meet our team

If you are looking for a new challenge and have security clearance, come and meet our talent solutions specialists at the forthcoming SC Expo to be held in Bristol on 25th April.

The event takes place from 10-3pm at Aerospace Bristol under the last Concorde aircraft to fly. Registration to the event is free – click here to secure your ticket.

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How to overcome the digital skills gap – to hire or upskill?

Posted March 21, 2024

Have you noticed a shift in the UK employment market? In fact, Indeed has recently reported that while the labour market has somewhat softened, with plans to hire muted, employer intentions to shed staff have remained limited.

No wonder, given the cost of hiring new staff, the demands for hybrid/remote working, and the ever-increasing wage demands.

Employers want to keep their people and so, we are seeing the focus of many companies shifting to the upskilling of existing resources, rather than hiring in new staff.

But with lack of new talent coming into organisations, could this cause a digital skills gap, particularly in the UK cleared sector? Based on the demand signals we are seeing for digital transformation from some key government departments, I suspect the answer to this is yes. We could even see a new talent bubble emerging as 2024 progresses.

While there is no silver bullet to solving the UK skills challenge, Sanderson’s Government & Defence team can help.

We firmly believe in our operations solutions and leaning in to multiple talent sources across the UK market, ensuring that your solution is not only a partnered one, but is resilient to the ever evolving and changing skills market.

If you’re reading this blog and have found yourself facing similar challenges with your talent, or are worried about finding yourself lacking the digital skills you need, get in touch today. We can help you solve the problem.

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Championing ED&I within the defence sector

Posted February 13, 2024

We are thrilled to announce our 2024 partnership with Women Empowering Defence.

Women Empowering Defence (WED) stands as a beacon of solidarity and empowerment. They are a collective force uniting individuals across the Defence and Security Sector, with a shared mission to champion gender equality and celebrate the diverse achievements of women in the defence sector.

The growth of this community speaks volumes to the value it’s adding to Defence sector and highlights just how much positive change was needed as the industry continues to break down barriers. At Sanderson Government & Defence, our dedication to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion is ingrained into our organisational culture and so we are delighted to be one of WED’s partners for 2024.

WED will become a core pillar of our positioning in the marketplace, and a key partner in our mission to support far greater gender diversity within the government and defence sector. Our Head of Projects, Mollie Chamberlain with be driving this partnership forward throughout the course of 2024 as our ambassador.

Commenting on the partnership Mollie confirmed; “We are excited for the year ahead and are looking forward to being part of a community that is empowering and influencing change within the defence sector.”

You can find out more about our partnership with WED here.