Tech Skills Gap: The World Needs 4M More Cybersecurity Experts — Now

KEY TAKEAWAYS

We unravel the paradox of the cybersecurity talent shortage and propose innovative strategies for cultivating a diverse, skilled, and resilient workforce in this critical sector.

Digital transformations are increasingly driving the corporate world. But if you look behind the curtain, cybersecurity is emerging as a pivotal battlefield in safeguarding the global economy’s integrity.

Yet this sector faces a paradoxical predicament. Despite an impressive 0% unemployment rate and lucrative salaries up for grabs, the industry grapples with a staggering talent shortfall. 

Cybersecurity has become a top strategic skill in short supply, with ISC2, the association for cybersecurity professionals, identifying a gap of 4 million cybersecurity experts needed — not in a future year, but now.

This contradiction paints a vivid picture: a field bursting with opportunities yet struggling to find the right talent to fill its ranks.

Investing in many existing staff outside of IT with transferrable skills would be ideal. But cybersecurity certification also enhances employee skills and market value, making them more attractive to headhunters.

A survey of nearly 15,000 professionals by ISC2 revealed that 92% of organizations experience skills gaps, particularly in cloud computing security, artificial intelligence/machine learning, and zero-trust implementation. 

With complex threats evolving, from sophisticated AI-driven attacks to intricate social engineering ploys, the need for a skilled, adaptable, and diverse cybersecurity workforce has never been more critical for businesses. But the big question remains: why aren’t more people choosing cybersecurity as a career?

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As we delve into the strategies necessary to bridge this gap, we must explore how organizations can attract the right talent and foster the requisite skills, mindset, and diversity in their cybersecurity teams to stay ahead in this dynamic and crucial field.

The Myth of Tech-Only Cybersecurity: Embrace Broader Skills

The common myth that cybersecurity is a domain reserved exclusively for those with deep technical knowledge is increasingly being debunked with an increasing value placed on generalist roles. These roles demand a broader skill set, welcoming diverse professionals from various backgrounds. 

The cybersecurity industry is opening its doors to everyone, acknowledging that skills often considered non-technical, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and effective communication, are crucial in building a resilient cyber environment. This inclusive approach broadens the talent pool and enriches the cybersecurity landscape with varied perspectives and approaches.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Cybersecurity Certificates for 2024

The narrative around cybersecurity careers is evolving. It’s moving away from fear-based, technical jargon to one of inspiration and inclusivity. This shift in discourse is vital in attracting a diverse range of talents, each bringing unique insights and strengths. By recognizing the multidisciplinary nature of cybersecurity, we open up a world of possibilities for innovation and enhanced digital trust, illustrating that cybersecurity is indeed a career path accessible and relevant to everyone, regardless of their academic or professional background.

Expand Your Cybersecurity Talent Pool

Widening the talent pool in cybersecurity is a necessity and a strategic advantage. Career changers and individuals from non-IT backgrounds increasingly recognize the multifaceted benefits of a career in cybersecurity, including a sense of purpose, attractive remuneration, and fast career progression. 

CIOs and CTOs looking to bridge the cybersecurity skills gap must look beyond traditional recruitment methods. Partnering with training providers can be a game-changer, offering access to dedicated, passionate individuals who have invested in their education and are eager to embark on long-term cybersecurity careers.

READ MORE: The Most Lucrative Roles in Cybersecurity

These partnerships enable organizations to tap into a pool of job-ready professionals, bypassing the costs associated with traditional recruitment processes.

In addition to external recruitment, investing in upskilling existing staff is crucial. Organizations must realize that training and development within the cybersecurity domain are essential, not optional. By prioritizing these areas, they address the skills shortage and create an environment that attracts and retains top talent. 

Upskilling initiatives through formal education, mentorship, or on-the-job learning are all crucial in equipping the workforce with the skills needed for the evolving cyber landscape.

Promoting internal hiring and cross-functional collaboration brings people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets into the cybersecurity team, fostering innovation and new problem-solving approaches. Furthermore, initiatives like apprenticeships, internships, and mentorship programs are valuable for gaining practical experience.

Enhancing an employer’s brand and culture is another overlooked area but vital in attracting new talent. Strategies like employee advocacy, referral programs, and collaborating with external influencers can significantly raise an organization’s profile among potential candidates.

Creating a Headhunter-Proof Employee Value Proposition

Retaining skilled staff is as crucial as recruiting them in the highly competitive cybersecurity landscape. To prevent being outmaneuvered by headhunters after investing in employee training, companies must create an appealing work environment that extends beyond financial incentives.

Your working environment should certainly include competitive wages and benefits. But don’t forget factors like flexible working options, remote work opportunities, and a supportive company culture. 

These elements contribute to job satisfaction and help manage work-related stress, a common issue in high-pressure cybersecurity roles. Furthermore, fostering a culture of growth, where employees have clear paths for career progression and opportunities for skill development, can be a strong deterrent against the lure of headhunters. For instance, offering to pay for certifications and maintenance fees shows a commitment to an employee’s professional growth and can be a significant factor in their decision to stay.

READ MORE: Interview with Boston Consulting Group and Talent Acquisition

Another key to retention is understanding the multifaceted reasons employees may leave. Engaging in open dialogue with your cybersecurity team to uncover their needs and aspirations is vital. Factors like dissatisfaction with growth opportunities, low pay, lack of work/life balance, or feeling undervalued can drive employees away. Addressing these concerns proactively can transform them into drivers of retention. 

Implementing flexible work schedules, ensuring employees feel connected to the organization’s mission, offering recognition for their efforts, and providing opportunities for acquiring new skills can significantly boost job satisfaction.

Hiring for cultural fit and potential, not just technical skills can lead to longer, more fulfilling employee tenures.

These approaches recognize that while skills can be developed, a cultural mismatch is more challenging to overcome, thus creating a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Augmenting In-House Capabilities with MSSPs

Many leaders seek a more straightforward solution to overcome the cyber security skills shortage and the time-consuming tasks of finding new staff. Managed security service providers (MSSPs) offer a strategic solution for organizations that prefer to outsource the responsibilities and have someone else do the heavy lifting.

A big selling point of these specialized service providers is that businesses can leverage the expertise and advanced tools that MSSPs bring. This approach lets companies focus on their core business activities, knowing that professionals handle their cybersecurity needs. MSSPs cover many security domains, from network and application protection to endpoint and email security, each requiring specialized skills and tools.

By entrusting these areas to MSSPs, organizations believe they can ensure comprehensive protection without the challenge of recruiting and retaining a diverse team of in-house cybersecurity experts.

Furthermore, using MSSPs is a practical response to the skills shortage and a cost-effective strategy. Additionally, MSSPs offer the flexibility to scale security measures in line with business growth, providing peace of mind and freeing internal IT teams to concentrate on other critical aspects of the business. In summary, leveraging fully managed security services is a sensible and efficient way for companies to address cybersecurity’s complex and evolving challenges.

However, it’s sadly a misconception that engaging a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) equates to outsourcing all cybersecurity responsibilities and diminishing internal security efforts.

Many organizations mistakenly believe that partnering with an MSSP can lessen their involvement in cybersecurity, but it’s is not the case.

In reality, partnering with an MSSP often leads to companies spending more time on cybersecurity, albeit on more strategic activities like threat analysis and vulnerability remediation. This shift in focus allows internal teams to concentrate on high-value tasks, enhancing overall security posture. For these reasons alone, MSSPs should not be considered a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Selecting the right MSSP for your organization will depend on your specific security and ability to integrate the provider’s services into existing operations. It’s about complementing and augmenting internal capabilities, not replacing them. This approach can help avoid common pitfalls like information asymmetry, where a lack of internal expertise makes it challenging to assess the quality of the MSSP’s work, or a misalignment in expectations and service delivery.

Properly vetting potential MSSPs, understanding their strengths, and ensuring they align with your security requirements and culture are critical steps in making the partnership beneficial and effective.

The Bottom Line

Overcoming the cybersecurity skills gap requires organizations to adopt multifaceted strategies. These include expanding the talent pool beyond traditional IT roles and embracing individuals with diverse backgrounds and transferable skills. Investing in upskilling existing staff and fostering a culture that values learning and growth is also imperative.

Creating an environment resistant to headhunter lures, with competitive compensation, flexible working conditions, and opportunities for professional development, is crucial for retaining talent. 

Sure, leveraging Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) can effectively augment in-house capabilities, offering specialized expertise and advanced tools while allowing companies to focus on core business functions. However, it’s vital to recognize that MSSPs complement rather than replace internal efforts, requiring careful selection and integration into the existing security framework.

Ultimately, a blend of internal development, external collaboration, and an inclusive approach to talent acquisition and retention forms the cornerstone of successfully navigating the cybersecurity skills landscape.

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Neil C. Hughes
Senior Technology Writer

Neil is a freelance tech journalist with 20 years of experience in IT. He’s the host of the popular Tech Talks Daily Podcast, picking up a LinkedIn Top Voice for his influential insights in tech. Apart from Techopedia, his work can be found on INC, TNW, TechHQ, and Cybernews. Neil's favorite things in life range from wandering the tech conference show floors from Arizona to Armenia to enjoying a 5-day digital detox at Glastonbury Festival and supporting Derby County.  He believes technology works best when it brings people together.