The world is facing a growing problem as people’s everyday lives are becoming more digital and increasing our reliance on cybersecurity to protect our interests, yet there are not enough security professionals to fulfill the rising demands. This leaves gaps in the security of companies and organizations we share information with. There is hope on the horizon. Academia is adjusting to increase the training of graduates and there is a rising interest in students to study the variety of cybersecurity domains. But more students are needed as demand is far outpacing the expected rise in available talent.
All the right elements are in place. Pay for cybersecurity is on the rise, the needs for an estimated 1.5 million jobs is already growing, and higher education institutions are working collaboratively to establish the training infrastructure necessary for the next generation of security professionals to be prepared for success. What is missing are the necessary numbers of students. There simply is not enough.
The good news is millennials are interested, but need more information in order to commit. Survey results from the Raytheon-NCSA Millennial report show the most prevalent factor for prospective students to increase their interest, is being provided data and expertise to explain what jobs entail.
Providing basic career information is absolutely possible but not as simple as it may seem. Job roles do morph very rapidly. Some data suggests as often as every nine months security professionals see their role, expectations, and focus being shifted into new areas or vary radically. With such a rapid rate of change, cybersecurity is truly a dynamic domain where responsibilities are fluid. This is not likely to turn off prospective millennials, as they are a generation which embraces diversity. It may in fact, contribute to the attractiveness of these careers. Combined with a strong employability and excellent pay, the industry should have no problem filling desk seats in universities.
What is needed right now are for experienced professionals to step up and work with educational institutions to explain the roles and responsibilities to the pool of prospective students. Open forums, virtual meetings, presentations, in-class instruction, and even simple question-and-answer sessions can go a long way in painting a vivid picture of our industry, opportunities, and challenges which await. The community should work together to attract applicants to the cyber sciences, especially women and underrepresented minorities who can bring in fresh ideas and perspectives. I urge higher education institutions to reach out to the security community professionals and ask for help. Many are willing to share their perspectives and industry knowledge to help inform students and encourage those who might be interested in a career in cybersecurity. Only together can the private sector and academia help fulfill the needs for the next generation of security professionals.
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