Sep 6th 2019

Stemming the cyber flow

It’s no secret that as a society we are increasingly reliant on technology to survive. Whether it is critical communications, healthcare technology, or even automation in factories – technology underpins it all.  Whilst this is incredibly beneficial – giving us humans more time to innovate and create a better quality of life – we are in turn increasingly at the mercy of nefarious hackers looking to exploit our personal and business data for a quick buck. As such, there is a growing pressure on technology companies to ensure their teams have the right skills to defend themselves and their businesses. However, therein lies a problem, for there are a number of challenges when it comes to hiring and retaining the required number of cyber security specialists.

Misconceptions

There is a dearth of qualified cyber security professionals across the globe, and the UK is no exception. The current workforce in the cyber world is ageing. However, with a perceived notion that to enter a career in cybersecurity means being highly skilled, or having significant qualifications in computing and science, there’s a whole swathe of people who are missing out on what can be a meaningful and lucrative career path. This is compounded by the fact that parents and children often aren’t aware of cyber security as a prospective job.

The B word

The uncertainty that Brexit has brought upon the UK has created an exodus of EU workers, many of them skilled in the technology sector. Potential or perceived confusion of working arrangements post-Brexit has seen many EU workers leaving and has led to a view of the UK as being a less-than-attractive market for employment. The UK does not yet have the home-grown talent to even attempt to stem this exodus.

It’s teaching, but not as we know it

Let’s look to where the problem arguably begins: our schools. The past few years have seen a steep decline in the number of students taking ICT at GCSE level, and this year there wasn’t even the option to take the subject. On top of this, whilst figures for computer science studies at university have increased, the cyber security sector does not seem to have benefited at all.

Whilst degrees are often looked upon favourably by many in and outside of the workforce, they aren’t the only option, and there is an increasingly large school of thought that believes this when it comes to solving the cyber security talent crisis. One person that is observing this trend is the head of HackerOne, Marten Mickos, who believes that the classroom isn’t the only place to solve the tech skills problem. Self-taught white hat hackers are making up numbers on his platform, which points to a workforce that has taken an alternate route to learning. However, when it comes to HR departments looking to hire, experience on paper often trumps ability.

Apprenticeships are another option. With companies of all kinds offering apprenticeships in cyber security, learning on the job whilst earning an income is becoming an increasingly popular option. After all, if you have the chance to work in cyber security with the likes of BT or GCHQ straight out of school, or to get a degree in three years, saddled by student debt – which are you going to choose?

Everyone welcome

There is a misconception that to work in cyber security, a background in science, maths, and computer science is needed. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you have problem solving skills, enthusiasm and determination, and can work well in a team, then you are as likely to succeed as anyone else. It doesn’t matter what your background is: the next cyber security star could very well be in their French class right now, or in English, maybe even in Music. All these different backgrounds are what make cyber security the industry it is today – interesting, diverse, and crucial to our safety. In fact, the UK government’s Cyber First initiative promotes exactly this way of thinking. This includes the Cyber Discovery programme, that encourages every UK student aged 13-18 to have a go at cyber security challenges. We desperately need to get kids interested in cyber from a young age in order to inspire them to pursue this to career level and bolster our tech industry, thereby plugging the skills gap slowly – but surely.

If you’re looking to get your message out to help close the UK’s cyber security skills gap, and want a partner who understands your needs, and those of the wider technology sector, drop us a line and we can discuss how Babel could help.