By 2021, there will be as many as 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the UK alone. Globally, the cybersecurity skills gap has already reached 3 m and will no doubt continue to grow before it shrinks. The biggest issue cybersecurity faces are outpacing the progression of technology. As new and exciting technologies enter the market, new vulnerabilities expose themselves to opportunistic hackers everywhere.
The skills gap in the UK is a result of a number of factors, each one a major issue the industry will need to face in order to meet demand. Some of the most evident issues include the lack of access to specialist skills, a disconnect between education and the needs of the industry and gender inequality. While there is no one solution to any of these issues, taking steps to address them is likely to help close the gap and keep networks safe across the UK.
Technology is constantly advancing at a rapid rate but when businesses integrate new forms of technology into the office the proper safety assessments need to be completed to ensure the entire network is protected. The rise in popularity of AI, cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT) has resulted in an explosion of new cybersecurity vulnerabilities that need a specialist understanding of the application to address.
Because of these developments, the most in-demand roles usually expect experience in security for AI, IoT and penetration testing. However, due to the nature of these specialisations being relatively new, very few cybersecurity graduates have an understanding or experience working with them. This shows how the objectives of the industry aren’t being fully met by education institutions.
To work towards resolving this issue, businesses will need to identify their own weaknesses and strengths and extend their own training initiatives to up-skill new recruits. Industry professionals could also work together with education providers to support students’ knowledge and interest in the most in-demand areas to tackle the skills gaps.
Another central issue to the cybersecurity skills gap is the lack of diversity in most companies. Only 17% of the tech workforce in the UK is made up of women and only a small percentage of the UK tech force works in cybersecurity. In addition to this, only 17% of cybersecurity students for the academic year 2016/17 were women.
Industries that have worked hard to tackle gender inequality, such as engineering, are already noting improvements in the skills gap as more talented candidates feel confident applying for roles they have the experience to perform well in.
In any industry, diversity is essential to be able to problem-solve from every angle and cybersecurity is no different. When the UK is facing such a dramatic shortage of skilled workers in an industry where so much is at stake, expanding the perception of what a cybersecurity worker looks and thinks like is essential.
Dealing with the deficit
Though these issues are impossible to solve overnight, facing the most evident shortcomings of the industry as it exists now will be a step in the right direction. By focusing on key recruitment issues such as gender inequality, robust training and alignment of education and industry, the UK cybersecurity sector can start to work through the dire skills gap it faces.
This article was written by Damon Culbert from Cybersecurity Professionals, a worldwide specialist job site.