Our lack of cybersecurity talent is a national crisis. Simply put, we do not have enough people to fix and protect our networks today or for the foreseeable future. According to the website www.cyberseek.org, there are currently 504,316 total cybersecurity job openings in the United States. This represents a significant increase from the 313,000 openings in 2019. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted the cybersecurity job market to continue this increase by 32% by the year 2028.

What I know to be true is that we have a talent pipeline problem. This is not a dig on anyone but there are merely not enough individuals joining the cybersecurity workforce each year. The good news is there are several pathways for someone to gain access. There are traditional paths where candidates obtain college degrees and more non-traditional paths such as apprenticeship or boot camp style training. Each path has seen an increase annually, but we must do more.

Here are my suggestions to be better:

  • Start earlier – We must increase the amount of curriculum and opportunities for middle and high school students to engage in the space. There are several schools throughout the country who have embraced teaching their students the basics of cybersecurity. Teachers are using a combination of free and paid curriculum by organizations like CISCO Networking Academy and Project Lead the Way. By connecting students to good learning opportunities earlier they will have a higher likelihood of pursuing a career and choose the best path to get there.
  • Train teachers – The challenge for most districts is finding a qualified technical instructor and the ability to pay their salary. As you have already read. Industry is short-staffed, and the salaries are amazing so how can a school compete. Districts can embrace the world of apprenticeship to “upskill” their staff and organically grow their own talent pipeline.
  • Gamify learning – I have four children with three of them being boys. Each one of them, and in all honesty, myself, love video games. We each play when we have free time and we also follow our favorite games and competitive players through the growing world of eSports. eSports offers live streaming of competitions on several different websites/apps. I would bet on any given Sunday there are more people watching online video games than the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. To sweeten the pot, colleges have embraced eSports and now offer scholarships for some of the top tier talent in the world. Imagine telling your child they can go to college free and they get to play video games. Our recently launched hacking competition is designed to gamify cybersecurity in a fun and easy way for individuals or teams to learn.
  • Determine Entry-Level – The cybersecurity industry is big. There are multiple layers, several job titles, and a massive list of skills required to gain entry. This makes it hard to narrow down what an individual should learn and what someone like us should teach. We can measure aptitude, desire, and reliability, but we must understand the basic technical requirements companies are seeking. This isn’t solely a CyberUp challenge because we and most higher education institutions are guessing a bit on where we start training. Hiring managers help us help you and tell us what right looks like!
  • Examine current openings – The country saw nearly 200,000 people increase in job openings in the past 12 months. We have a breakdown of the types of job openings, but we do not have a rundown of the experience level required for those roles. If 300,000 jobs of those listed require over 5 years’ experience but there are not enough people with those requirements, maybe we should look at how we change that. Can we make more roles, divide up the tasks to multiple individuals, and still meet mission requirements? It is more rhetorical, but the answer is yes. We can train and educate thousands of people annually, but we cannot jump them to a five-year professional. Let’s get creative and find ways to change that number.
  • Embrace apprenticeship – We are probably a bit partial to this one because of our own apprenticeship program, but that is because we know it works. Do not let the word scare you. We make adoption easy and have shown time and time again to employers it is a viable option for hiring. There are several options to make it work and I assure you it can be done within the realm of your companies hiring practices.

As we kick-off 2020, CyberUp has a big year ahead. What you just read are my opinions, but they are also the priorities for our organization. We are working diligently each day to cultivate the cybersecurity talent pipeline. Over the next few months, you will see some exciting announcements like our hacking competitions and hiring partners, but you will also recognize a change in how we talk about ourselves. We must be better as an organization, an industry, and a country in growing the workforce. Our digital lives and our national security depend on getting as close as we can to full employment. If you want to be part of the conversation reach out to me personally at tony@wecyberup.org and let’s find a way to be better together. Hooah!