THE BLOG
21/09/2015 09:17 BST | Updated 16/09/2016 06:12 BST

Attracting Young People to Tech

The problem is that in the past we have not been doing enough to encourage young people to look at cybersecurity and tech as a viable career option. And with few youngsters studying related subjects at school and university, there are not enough qualified candidates to fill the vacancies.

It is somewhat surprising to me that given young people's heavy reliance and usage of technology that this discipline continues to be overlooked by many looking ahead for their future careers. Given the opportunities a career in tech gives for a great salary and almost the 'guarantee' of employment, it would seem to be a job which every young professional would kill for.

But sadly it does not seem to be the case, with companies around the world struggling to find good candidates to fill open vacancies. While many good initiatives exist around the country to attract more professionals into the tech industry, there is still a huge number of vacancies, especially in cybersecurity.

So I was delighted to see in the news last week that one of the UK's main exam boards has announced it will launch a new qualification known as Tech-levels which is being offered to students as an option for A Levels. Initially there will be seven Tech-levels: design engineering, mechatronic engineering, power network engineering, IT networking, IT programming and IT user support. There are two more - cyber security and entertainment technology - planned for next year.

It is important we do more of this type of initiative.

The problem is that in the past we have not been doing enough to encourage young people to look at cybersecurity and tech as a viable career option. And with few youngsters studying related subjects at school and university, there are not enough qualified candidates to fill the vacancies.

It is clear those of us in the industry, need to actively participate in cultivating a talent pipeline while taking steps to bridge the talent gap in the interim. Otherwise the dearth of cybersecurity professionals, already estimated at more than a million worldwide, will continue to grow.

A new US labour market report by Burning Glass, Job Market Intelligence: Cybersecurity Jobs, 2015, reported that job postings for cybersecurity have grown three times faster than openings for IT jobs overall. It also takes companies longer to fill cybersecurity positions than other IT jobs. The professional services, finance, and manufacturing/defence sectors have the greatest number of openings. This is a trend we see repeated in the UK and worldwide.

Employers and IT security vendors must also collaborate with colleges and universities to help close the talent gap. Providing scholarships, funding specific programs to support hybrid study, offering expertise in the classroom, and creating internships are just a few ways to help accelerate the number of trained graduates who will enter the job market a few years from now. Not only that, we can help ensure that the next generation of programs are relevant and designed to address real-world challenges, through sharing what we know about with these new professionals, such as attack techniques being used, the latest technologies and strategies to deal with threats, and where the biggest competency gaps lie. True, it's a longer-term approach to dealing with the skills shortage, but it's one that will pay dividends in the future.

The global cybersecurity skills shortage isn't going away any time soon. But by attacking it on multiple fronts we can proactively work to address it. Savvy students should consider this exploding and exciting field of study that embraces a wider and wider range of skill sets. Academia, government, and industry should continue to partner to ensure educational programs are relevant and available. And organisations should identify how to use integration, automation, and security services to compensate for a lack of resources today.