Closing the Cybersecurity Skills Gap: Together We Can

By Krystal Rennie / Adlumin, Inc.

In our last blog post, we discussed in-demand cybersecurity skills that IT workers should be prioritizing in 2021. This post will lift the magnifying glass and take a deep dive into two questions: why is there a gap in cybersecurity skills? How do we close that gap?

According to Help Net Security, a recent (ISC)² survey explains, “data suggests that employment in the field now needs to grow by approximately 41% in the U.S. and 89% worldwide to fill the talent gap, which remains a top concern of professionals.” Such gaps in employment opportunities and skills are harmful to both job and expert seekers. It is difficult for companies to find IT professionals who have all the skills needed to meet the continually evolving industry demands. For IT professionals, both rookies and vets, this skill gap creates fewer job opportunities and eliminates experience building. But, before we get too carried away with the repercussions, let’s take a look inside the cybersecurity skills gap.

The Ongoing Cybersecurity Skills Gap

The cybersecurity industry is experiencing an extreme talent shortage across the country, which has been explicitly spotlighted by the ongoing pandemic. Some of the many reasons this gap exists include lack of diversity, trouble attracting candidates into the field, and a continuous change in skillset demands. A recent Silicon Republic article explains, “cybersecurity traditionally has appealed only to a very specific set of candidates because it requires experience and knowledge in other areas, such as system admin, networking or application development, and people with a security mindset. Doing security well is not just following the process and going through the motions; it requires people to be able to think critically and creatively.”

Cybersecurity is no longer a niche industry but is simply one of the most critical sectors in our current workforce climate. With an increased presence in businesses, there is an upgrade in skill expectations. As if the job pool was not already hard enough to navigate, the cybersecurity sector is incredibly competitive – basic tech skills are no longer sufficient to stand apart. Both company and IT professionals face a challenge finding the proper training materials and tools to develop those essential, in-demand cybersecurity skills.

From budget shortages to experience shortages, the cybersecurity industry is trying to find the perfect balance. Hopefully, we will see this year that an ideal balance does exist.

Diversifying the Industry is Key

The first step to closing the industry’s skills gap is to address and change the narrative of the stereotypical cybersecurity professional. From gender to race gaps, there is a definite lack of diversity within the cybersecurity industry. According to the IB Times, “in North America, women make up only 14% of the cybersecurity workforce, the highest regional concentration in the world. Black and Hispanic only make up 9% and 7% of STEM workers, respectively.” To broaden the different backgrounds within the industry, companies must consider doing the following:

  • Partnerships: Companies looking to diversify their IT departments should look into partnering with community organizations that work to create access to resources that offer support for diverse candidates as they enter the cybersecurity field.
  • Promoting Growth: Companies should encourage growth opportunities to candidates and broaden their expectations for rookies entering the field. Focus more on granting professionals experience and less on expecting the full experience.
  • Training Programs: Companies should invest in programs that will train cybersecurity professionals on the most-in-demand skills, providing them opportunities to engage in certification programs. This will help bring your employees up to speed and evolve as professionals.

Tackling the lack of diversity within the cybersecurity sector is a big task that will not happen overnight. However, suppose we are going to have a fair chance of shrinking the skills gap. In that case, we must take the steps necessary to expand the top of the funnel and ensure that professionals have the proper tools, training, and employment opportunities needed to succeed in the field.

A Bright Future

Although cybersecurity is facing a few challenges, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Closing the skills gap must be a combined effort by companies and professionals. A mutually beneficial relationship will shrink this hole in the industry’s talent pool. It will also propel the movement forward and create endless possibilities for advancing security and compliance technologies. The overarching theme here is that as cybersecurity’s popularity increases, the need for a skilled, well-rounded, and diverse professional will also increase. It is up to us to do our part in making sure that the industry’s future shines bright through times of uncertainty and success.