The number of cybersecurity workers is on the rise, but we still need more. Photo: Shutterstock
Efforts to address Australia’s chronic cybersecurity skills gap appear to be finally paying off, with Australia’s cybersecurity workforce growing by more than 23% in the last year as flexible working arrangements make cyber staff happier than ever.
There are now 134,690 cybersecurity workers in Australia, according to the Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2021 of the International Information System Security Certification Consortium industry group, or (ISC)2 – compared to 108,950 workers in 2020 and 107,000 in 2019.
That’s almost 26,000 more workers this year than last year.
Growth in the Asia-Pacific region reduced the skills gap by 500,000 people overall, according to the report, making it the only region where the gap did not increase.
“The continued decline is large enough to offset demand in the rest of the world and effectively close the global gap to our 2020 measure,” the report said while warning that “the decline in the labor gap APAC’s work does not suggest that a problem is solved”.
“With a remaining gap of more than 1.42 million, APAC employers are struggling to find qualified and skilled professionals.”
The increase in jobs reflects the continued growth of the global cybersecurity workforce – which added approximately 710,000 new workers (20%) last year to 4.19 million – but demand continues to exceed supply in many countries.
“It is easy to draw the conclusion that the industry is making steady progress in closing the skills gap,” the report notes. “However, a deeper dive into the global trends behind the spread valuation suggests curbing this cautious optimism.”
Australia, for example, still needs 25,000 more cybersecurity workers to close its cybersecurity gap, (ISC)2 said, warning that staff shortages continued to pose operational challenges for businesses around the world.
Respondents said staffing shortages had caused a range of issues, including misconfigured systems, insufficient time for proper risk assessment and management, slow patching of critical systems, rushed deployments, oversights in processes and procedures and an inability to stay abreast of all active threats.
“The need for more professionals in the field has never been greater,” the report notes, “continuing to outstrip demand and underscoring that career opportunities will only grow.”
Working from home has proven viable
While even last year’s meteoric growth isn’t enough to close the cybersecurity skills gap overall, there are signs that pursuing work-from-home (WFH) arrangements could be particularly helpful for employers. who are struggling to find enough talent.
At least 84% of cybersecurity workers said they work entirely remotely or visit the office sporadically.
And while that figure is down slightly from last year, it coincided with record job satisfaction rates of 77% overall, down from 66% in 2019.
This change suggests that many cybersecurity workers had seen the pandemic’s bias towards telecommuting arrangements as a welcome opportunity to redefine their working hours, reduce the mental health impact of stressful jobs and engage. with employers in a different way.
Indeed, only 15% of cybersecurity workers said they want to fully return to an office, far less than the 24% of all companies planning to return to a conventional office environment.
No wonder: cybersecurity roles seem to have proven to be particularly well-suited to remote working arrangements, with 43% of cybersecurity workers able to fully carry out their job responsibilities while working remotely and a third parties noting that their roles do not need to be on the spot.
“While much work remains to be done to recruit and retain more cybersecurity personnel, the results provide several reasons to feel good about the state of the industry,” the report notes.
Much of this optimism has to do with the growing acceptance of telecommuting arrangements, with officials more willing to allow cybersecurity workers to work remotely.
At least 41% of respondents said their managers had gained confidence in the performance of remote workers during the pandemic, with a third noting that telecommuting agreements have actually made it easier to recruit and retain employees .
With this in mind, the WFH can prove to be an invaluable recruitment tool for an industry that has already attempted to close the e-skills gap through targeted recruitment, gender awareness, skills development, school-aged children, neurodiversity engagement, career change, and similar programs.
“Where the sudden shift to working from home was a temporary necessity in 2020, in 2021 the benefits of a remote workforce have solidified in many organizations,” the report notes.
“Whereas [cyber] professionals may have been considered essential on-site staff in the past, last year proved they can be successful working remotely.