Lack of young people to fill cybersecurity positions could create bottleneck

Posted on Oct 29, 2015

Cybersecurity is a major consideration for a wide variety of businesses and government agencies and departments. Organizations should focus on many aspects of protecting their digital assets and networks to truly address the issue in a comprehensive fashion. Recent news detailing a lack of young people entering the field could make it more difficult for organizations to maintain a highly qualified staff of cybersecurity professionals and is worth consideration.

"Adults ages 18-26 aren't engaging in educational opportunities at a rate that will increase the number of cybersecurity professionals."

A lack of new candidates
InformationWeek reported on data from a survey conducted by Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance, which found a worldwide deficiency in terms of millennials pursuing careers in cyber defense and information security. Adults ages 18-26 simply aren't engaging in educational opportunities at a rate that will ultimately increase the number of professionals in the space. That problem is exacerbated by the current dearth of trained professionals. The Raytheon and NCSA report, titled "Securing our Future: Closing the Cyber Talent Gap," noted U.S. businesses posted a total of 49,493 job openings requiring a certified information security systems professional despite a total of just 65,362 CISSP holders throughout the country. Because many of these certified professionals already hold a position, demand is significantly outstripping supply.

Issues with exposure
One major issue noted in the report is a lack of exposure to cybersecurity as a career pathway for young people in high school and college, especially for women. Even if students have a natural aptitude or take to the material quickly, it won't matter if the option is never presented. Approximately 75 percent of female respondents said they didn't receive exposure to cybersecurity information and concepts during high school classes, while 62 percent of males reported the same lack of education. Similarly, more than three-quarters of women reported they never had a conversation with a career or guidance counselor about a career in the field. Two-thirds of the men surveyed said the same thing.

This is an especially vexing concern, as there's little businesses and organizations can do to get young adults involved with, and interested in, cybersecurity at such a young age. This problem could continue to affect the talent pipeline for years to come unless educational institutions place more emphasis on this subject.

Moving forward
There's no single response that can quickly improve these lagging metrics, but there was some good news contained in the survey results. Year-by-year results indicate significant growth in the number of young adults who have considered a job in the field this year versus 2014, with 28 percent more millennials saying they're more likely to select a career in cybersecurity or a related field. Additionally, about 38 percent of young adults surveyed said they actively participated in some form of job or internship seeking, contest or mentoring program related to cybersecurity needs. While there are some challenges in the current climate as it relates to young adults and
cyber defense, this is some encouraging news.

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