Cybercrime in SMEs is a growing concern. SMEs’ dependency on IT and Internet has made them vulnerable to cybercrime. This vulnerability is making information security a critical issue for all SMEs. Tackling cybersecurity threats and attacks is becoming more and more important in the European Union and worldwide.

Closely related to the need to make cybersecurity a top priority in Europe, a growing challenge is the shortage of cyber security professionals. This trend led the European Commission to estimate that, by 2030, the EU will have a shortage of 8 million ICT specialists and cybersecurity experts (European Union's Digital Compass, 2021).

Increasing cybersecurity talent via formal education is an atypical area of activity. It comprises a strong autodidactic and rebellious (hackers) community. This community is often not served by formal education providers or does not want to be.

Our mission: making the cyberworld a place of safety and opportunity for youth

The aims of the WHAT THE HACK?! project are:

• To improve young people’s level of key ICT competences and skills and thus their relevance for the labour market by developing new educational content on Cybersecurity, Ethical Hacking and Cybersafety.
• To develop inclusive ICT learning environments for youngsters inside and outside of VET education by setting up/further developing ‘Hack labs’, i.e. sheltered ICT learning places.
• To include youngsters outside of education and employment in non-formal learning, and as a result guide them to education or employment.
• To empower SMEs and individuals to secure their online life through cybersafety education and awareness raising.
• To promote synergies, cooperation, and cross-fertilisation between the different stakeholders active in the ICT sector within education, industry and (semi-) government.
• To ensure that Vocational Education is at the forefront of technological developments in the ICT sector allowing the rapid update of these developments in training curricula and qualifications by letting VET education providers actively participate in the triple helix partnerships.
• To promote lifelong learning for ICT professionals by developing their pedagogical competences and skills and prepare them to become ‘Hack-lab coaches’.
• To increase the opportunities for international peer-learning and learning mobility for VET youngsters by facilitating joint international student projects and training weeks.
• To foster quality improvements, innovation excellence and internationalisation of Vocational Training institutions through enhanced transnational cooperation between EU VET institutions and ICT (public and private) stakeholders.