With all the computers and portable tech devices businesses and consumers rely on today, how is it possible that there aren’t enough qualified people to work in cybersecurity?
But that’s exactly the situation we find ourselves in. By 2020, experts say there could be as many as a million and a half unfilled job positions in the cybersecurity field. Many of those same experts believe the industry could be worth upwards of $100 billion by then, too.
That’s a lot of squandered opportunity. So how’d we get here? And what can we do to bridge the skills gap in this hugely important industry? Here’s a quick look.
A prevailing hypothesis for the cybersecurity skills gap is the way we hunt for this type of talent. It should be clear by now that cyber threats can affect each of us at any time — but we’re still searching for talent using old-fashioned requirements and limiting ourselves to folks with rather “traditional” educational backgrounds — insofar as the word “traditional” actually applies to the computing sciences.
In other words, even though cybersecurity is a very broad field that touches virtually every existing and emerging industry, some companies are attempting to fill these vital positions by only searching for applicants who completed four-year computer science degrees or similar programs. See? Old-fashioned.
To put it another way, if you’re hoping to break into this industry, you might need to prove how much more valuable an agile, modern and even self-directed educational track can be than the stuffy four-year paradigm that doesn’t seem to be cutting it as a benchmark anymore.
And employers are going to have to meet us in the middle by placing less of an emphasis on degrees and time spent on university campuses and much more emphasis on the breadth of an applicant’s current skills and their willingness to engage in self-learning to make sure their skillsets remain up-to-date. Black-hat hackers don’t rest on their laurels — so we need white-hat professionals who won’t, either.
Remember we mentioned earlier that cybersecurity is a one-hundred-billion-dollar industry? It turns out cybercrime is four times as valuable. Those are the stakes right now.
Industry giants like IBM are catching on, too, because they’re helping to change some of the language we use when we discuss educational backgrounds and how they apply to vital positions in cybersecurity. IBM calls their approach “new collar” jobs — a riff on “blue collar” — and the term feels appropriate. Phrases like “gig economy” and “ongoing learning” are entering the mainstream more and more each day because so much of commerce no longer fits a familiar mold. We need a new way to talk about these things.
Thanks to IBM’s — and many other companies’ — “new collar” approach, we stand a good chance of populating a lot of the expected unfilled positions in cybersecurity by 2020.
As a current or future student, you might be wondering how you can set yourself up for success in this burgeoning and vital field. As you can probably imagine, employers are very eager to court the minorities that have been underrepresented in the computer sciences. For example, if you’re an ambitious young woman who wants to make a mark on the industry, there are several organizations out there that can help you get your foot in the door — as well as grants and scholarships.
You might also be surprised to learn this, but there are employers out there who offer what amounts to a paid, or partially paid, apprenticeship-type employment. Don’t sell yourself short with an unpaid internship. It’s increasingly possible for you to build your skills in real-time while simultaneously working toward full employment. See how you can work with employers in your area if this interests you. You might also see it referred to as “earn while you learn.”
Complacency is a hacker’s best friend. So is stretching ourselves too thin. Hackers get the best of us because most privately owned small businesses — still a serious force in America’s economy — just don’t have the resources and the know-how required to insulate themselves against all these constantly emerging threats. Whether that company builds an in-house team to handle it or turns to an outside contractor, it’s clear this need isn’t going away anytime soon.
Thankfully, all the right players seem to be getting the message.
There’s talk of loan forgiveness for cybersecurity students, and universities large and small are creating increasingly relevant and flexible course catalogs to help make sure the right education is available to those who want it.
Image by Pixabay
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