In 2015, 89 percent of cybersecurity job postings went unfilled due to high standards that companies required of entry- and mid-level positions, according to a CareerBuilder survey. Hiring managers in cybersecurity and IT did not believe most applicants had the skills or certifications to match what was needed, and in turn, began outsourcing their IT and security employees. As a result, young adults were hesitant to pursue IT and security-related degrees, because they feared a shortage of jobs within the industry that they would meet the requirements for. The younger generations are now being introduced to IT and security careers far too late, developing interest in other subjects and alternative career paths during crucial development years.
It’s a bad time for a shortage
Doesn’t it seem that at a time when connected devices, the growth of IoT and cyber attacks are at their highest, this IT skills gap is a bit scary? We will soon be lacking a young workforce of professionals who are knowledgeable and prepared to take on the oncoming attacks. Those mid- to high-level professionals who are already in the field must be doing what they can to promote and encourage the younger generations to pursue IT and security related fields. Here are a few steps that can be taken:
Encourage career growth within the field
Whether it be through financial or title-related incentives, young IT employees must be encouraged to stay motivated and educated in order to grow within their career. Gallup’s latest report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, reveals that 59 percent of Millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job.
Set realistic entry-level expectations
Employers must be realistic about expectations for entry-level applicants in order to widen the candidate pool. Many of the current entry-level positions require industry certifications and training that a new employee might not necessarily have. Employers should consider applicants who may have some but not all the required skills, and keep in mind that they will be fully trained during their employment. Entry-level positions should focus on big picture, well-rounded qualities and soft skills.
Start them even younger with STEM
Many organizations are creating STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) boot camps for kids, designed to get them involved at an even younger age. These camps help students build a strong STEM foundation by teaching the basics of math, chemistry, and biology, among other subjects. In a time where the demand for cybersecurity professionals is rising as the candidate supply is falling, it is valuable to invest in the future of the industry.
Make IT and cybersecurity fun
Unfortunately, IT and cybersecurity can sometimes be considered “boring,” but organizations are working to change that misconception. Many organizations are hosting networking events or friendly competitions such as “hackathons” to allow cybersecurity professionals or learners to network and meet industry peers, while sharpening their skills in the process. The outcomes and discussions from these events a positive step for the industry with a lighthearted atmosphere.
The good news: Nearly 40 percent of young professionals want more information about cybersecurity careers, likely pursuing a cybersecurity career if they are aware of what the job entails. And UMSA and Secure360 found that, after an extremely successful inaugural student-focused cybersecurity event, that young adults and learners were excited to have the opportunity to learn more about the field and network with professionals in the industry.
What are you doing to engage the next generation of cybersecurity professionals?