Each first Thursday of the month is a new installment in Stronger’s Jobs in Cybersecurity Series. The articles in the series have looked at employment from the employer’s perspective, the professional’s, as well as how the obsession with unicorns is affecting the growing skills gap. This month, Stronger looks at new approaches to training can help fill the skill gap.
Within the tech industry, everyone is talking about the talent shortage. Growing AI demands and IoT adoption will only add to the number of skilled workers needed to maintain cybersecurity and protect organizations. Companies and colleges are embracing different ways to create the skilled professionals needed to bridge the gap and fill the demand.
Here are a few of the most popular alternative paths to cybersecurity tech jobs:
Since showing up in 2012, there has been an increase in boot camps geared toward individuals interested in upskilling or changing careers. Solid numbers are near impossible to ascertain, but the last comprehensive study reported that in mid-2017, there were at least 1,400 programs worldwide with 73% of those being located in the US, Canada or online. The number must be even higher now with major universities, such as Harvard, Yale, and Cal Poly, teaming up with outside companies to offer boot camps, and other universities like Northwestern building their own.
This intensive style of training and reskilling provides an alternative for those already finished with a degree or wishing to bypass a full degree altogether. The schedules and lengths of boot camps vary, some fit around work schedules and others require a week or two break from work to complete.
Within the Higher Education system, Community Colleges are an alternative to boot camps. They often provide broader exposure and training in multiple areas. As well, the training is often less intensive than that of a boot camp. This path also gives students the option of continuing on to university to advance or finish their degree — options that boot camps don’t provide.
Across the country there are more than a dozen —and growing— two-year college cybersecurity programs. Many of these are working with tech giants to help train and produce “new collar” hires. These employees “pick up their skills through on-the-job training, industry certifications and community college courses.” Since 2015, new collar hires make up 20% of Big Blue cybersecurity hires.
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of companies partnering with higher education institutions. For example, Purdue has partnered with companies to form custom corporate education programs, and IBM has teamed up with a number of universities to help train individuals for its growing tech needs.
Not only are the companies providing hands on experience, some are even paying for college or providing guaranteed employment on completion of training programs. Mastercard, Microsoft and Workday have partnered with the US Government via the Cybersecurity Work Initiative. After graduating, students work for the US government for two years, receive $75,000 toward student loan repayment and then have a job waiting for them with one of the partner companies.
Apprenticeship is also on the rise, circumventing academic pathways altogether. These two-years experiences within a company are shorter than the traditional college experience and financially come with significant benefits. Not only do they help companies groom and train employees to fill the skills gap but “apprenticeships will help candidates develop the in-house skills they’ll need to face the mounting threat posed by cyberattacks” in a way that only firsthand experience can.
Hackathons & Competitions
Red Team vs Blue Team competitions, cyber simulations, and hackathons that imitate real life scenarios test cyber skills. The use of gamification in these settings speeds the learning process, and both employees and students gain the additional benefit of learning to manage the duress and pressure that often is part of a cyber career during a risk-free play scenario. “In a competition environment, teams are forced to think on their feet and identify solutions under pressure. This type of problem-solving and quick collaboration is learned through hands-on experience.”
Training and degrees are changing, but the need for experienced workers is only increasing. As the system transforms and evolves, innovation is occurring across the industry to find ways to fill the gap and supply talent for an ever growing need.
Even with AI and Machine Learning, people will always be needed in cybersecurity. The skills they bring and the experience they have will become increasingly valuable. As leaders of industry think outside the box about how that education and experience can be achieved, everyone stands to benefit because an increasingly diversified and ample talent pool will lead to better cybersecurity teams. And better cybersecurity teams make all of us more secure.