Selling cyber security as a lucrative, exciting profession and staying away from tired ‘hacker’ stereotypes is key to solving the cyber skills gap according to Ian Glover, president of accreditation and security testing firm CREST.
“What would a cyber career job look like to a 14 year old? A hacker is what that looks like,” he told V3,
He said this negative conotation of the job can often come from the very people who should be selling the sector as a great future job arena.
“[If] you go to your careers advisor in school and say ‘I really like tech, I want to be a hacker’ they will go ‘absolutely not’ and they will probably report you to the NCA.
“Then you will talk to some of the other people in the school and they won’t have any idea what you are talking about.”
But Glover said that teenagers must be better informed about the vast opportunities the cyber and technology industries provide.
“Cyber is a really structured, proper career with career progression and you will earn more money than doing accountancy. You have got to be good and work really hard but it’s a young, growing, industry.
“We need to articulate that to both get the right message into the schools and the careers advisors.”
However, this is not the case and is impacting businesses with many firms complaining about a lack of viable applicants for high tech digital jobs.
One recent study published by CompTIA found that 45 percent of 1,507 IT executives are experiencing an “excessive” shortfall in IT talent, despite 28 percent having plans to hire more IT staff this year.
In fact Glover said the situation is even worse than it first appears because not only is their shortage of people who can be up-skilled for cyber security roles within the industry already but there is a lack of people joining the sector too.
“The skills gap I find frustrating because there’s two elements to it. We have a gap in skills where we need to up-skill our existing workforce and we need to [train] new people to come in. And then we have a gap because we haven’t got enough people,” he said.
“In line with that we need to understand how to educate the wider community on the issues.”
“We have to be very careful to address the different problems and we have to be a bit more articulate in terms of what it is we are actually saying, skills gap is too broad a term to come out with anything useful,” Glover explained.
Despite these difficulties in perception and definitions, Glover said that CREST is ramping up its efforts to reach teenagers with the use of online job directories and, eventually, having a stronger presence in job fairs across the country.
“CREST is trying to be collaborative and pull together the industry bodies with support from government to try and develop a pavilion to go around to major education events because at the moment we are not there,” he said.
“We are developing 14-16 year-old careers material and we are going to take that to the major education fairs. So that’s one way of us trying to do this.
“If we believe in this we, as an industry, have got to employ young people because if everybody is looking for a skilled person we are just going to go round and round in circles.”
Recently, the UK government launched its CyberInvest scheme to the sum of £6.5m to fund research into cyber security, while the National Crime Agency (NCA) also launched a campaign designed to educate parents about the dangers of cyber crime.
The campaign, branded CyberChoices, will teach parents of 12-15 year-old children about the forms of cyber tools often exploited by unwitting teenagers.
Additionally, it aims to help parents and carers spot signs of potential problems and understand the consequences of computer misuse.