By Amber Lowry

For years, employers have complained that there aren’t enough workers with the skills they need. Even with 1.9 million students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2016, and 64,405 of those students earning a degree in computer and information sciences 1, it’s still not enough for companies to keep up with their hiring demands. Cybersecurity has the highest growth projection — 28 percent through 2026 — among similar occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  It’s time we start thinking out of the box of traditional hiring practices and expand it to incorporating apprenticeship programs to help close this skills gap.

Department of Labor registered apprenticeship programs in cybersecurity can help address the skills gap facing most companies build alternative career paths as well as provide greater opportunity to diversify their workforce. An apprenticeship program serves as an alternate on-ramp into a role that normally requires a specific degree or professional experience by providing motivated, high-potential individuals with the required training, professional skills development and experiential learning to bridge the skills gap. Apprenticeship programs also reduce hiring costs by providing a streamlined channel to bring on new workers. They may also reduce attrition by building a bond of loyalty between company and employee or by providing an opportunity for motivated young people to stay rooted in their communities.

Unfortunately, only a few major companies like IBM and Microsoft are currently experimenting with different ways of hiring tech workers. In 2017, IBM was one of the first adaptors of a traditional registered apprenticeship program in the technology industry. IBM’s view is that “new-collar” jobs in cybersecurity, cloud computing and other high-demand fields don’t necessarily require a traditional college degree. IBM focuses more on a candidate’s skills during the hiring process, rather than his or her level of education. Last year IBM hired 15 – 20 percent of their talent through their “new-collar” approach instead of 100 percent through the traditional four-year degree approach.

               In the St. Louis region, companies like Centene Corporation, Bayer, and Peabody Energy have been early adaptors of CyberUp’s Cybersecurity Analyst registered apprenticeship program and have helped bridge the gap between talent and opportunity. Companies can find the skillsets they need through hiring CyberUp’s candidates, finding their own candidate, or even upskilling current employees. With a problem this large, it really does take everyone thinking creatively how they can train the workforce.

The apprenticeship approach is an excellent way to close the large and growing gap between demand and supply in this critical field, with additional benefits that include increasing diversity in the IT field and expanding the skill set of existing workers. If you’re interested in learning more how your organization can expand its recruiting and hiring methods, contact Amos Reed at amos@wecyberup.org.

  1. The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics