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How to Find Skilled Cybersecurity Talent, According to Two Experts

  • Cyberattacks are on the rise, forcing businesses to scramble for help.
  • It’s a challenge of supply and demand. The industry lacks qualified talent to fill vacancies.
  • Two experts told Insider what businesses and educational institutions can do to close the gap.
  • The conversation was part of Insider’s virtual event “Cybersecurity Trends: Prepare for a Safer Future,” presented by Cisco, which took place on Thursday, May 12, 2022.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the full event.

It’s a cybercriminal’s dream come true: organizations are struggling to train and recruit skilled talent to combat the increasing frequency of attacks.

But the solution is not as simple as creating more pathways to industry.

Instead, higher education institutions will need to prepare workers with skills directly applicable to job vacancies, according to Eman El-Sheikh, associate vice president of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of West Florida, who voiced Thursday during a cybersecurity panel titled “Cybersecurity Trends: Prepare for a Safer Future,” presented by Cisco. At the same time, companies need to invest in career development, competitive salaries and a business climate to recruit and retain such talent, said Fran Rosch, CEO of cybersecurity firm ForgeRock, during the panel.

“We have a supply and demand challenge,” Rosch said. In other words, there simply aren’t enough cybersecurity professionals to meet business needs.

On the supply side, companies need access to experts trained in cyber law, behavioral analysis and managers ready to deal with the evolving nature of cyberattacks, according to El-Sheikh. This means focusing on the key skills and certifications companies seek to better prepare graduates.

“We really need, from an education perspective, to look at how we develop and deliver multi-disciplinary programs to meet growing workforce needs,” El-Sheikh said.

But this preparation extends beyond the classroom. Bridging the gap between educational programs and employment requires internships and apprenticeships that give students pathways to careers in cybersecurity, El-Sheikh said.

For example, through a free six-month training program at the University of West Florida, 1,700 military veterans will be trained to fill critical cyber roles over the next two years, according to El-Sheikh. It is funded by a grant from the National Security Agency.

Training, however, is only half the battle. Hiring and retaining newly trained workers proved equally difficult.

“We don’t view this as a hiring challenge,” Rosch said. “We think it’s a more holistic talent challenge.”

Companies need to invest in what employees want, such as being mission-focused or emphasizing how an employee’s role can contribute to a safer society, according to Rosch.

But career development and competitive salaries with benefits are also key to attracting and retaining talent, Rosch said. A need for flexibility has emerged during the pandemic as the balance of power has shifted from employer to employee.

Employees also want companies to hire a diverse workforce and create a more inclusive workspace, Rosch said. Additionally, finding new employees from diverse talent pools can also be a solution to the talent shortage, according to Rosch.

“We’re really starting to look beyond our normal path and that’s really helped us hire, develop and retain our talent,” Rosch said.

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