People have been talking about the cybersecurity skills gap for almost as long as they have been talking about the rise in data breaches. It’s easy to get “gap” fatigue and ignore the problem, but the facts warn against that approach. The 2018 (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study reports that the cybersecurity workforce gap has grown to more than 2.9 million globally, and worse, found that 59 percent of cybersecurity professionals felt the expanding workforce gap put their organizations at risk.
The problem is growing, but what can be done? A challenge this significant requires innovation, cooperation, and concerted effort from many quarters. Governments, enterprises, and higher education institutions are working on separate and joint initiatives to raise up the cybersecurity workforce needed to address serious threats to industry, commerce and even critical infrastructure. But the question is, will these efforts be enough?
How Enterprises Can Help Fill the Gap
Ensuring that our digital society and global economies are secure absolutely depends on critical security technology innovation, coupled with the effective deployment, integration, and ongoing maintenance and optimization of these solutions. And every step of that process requires well-trained professionals who are committed to curbing the ever-expanding landscape of cybersecurity threats.
A growing number of enterprises are rising to the challenge and creating programs that demonstrate their commitment to solving the global cybersecurity skills shortage by confronting the real issue – the talent gap. The mission of such programs is to identify individuals who have the aptitude, interest, and ability to succeed as a cybersecurity professional. Programs include funding training programs and resources in schools, establishing apprenticeship and mentoring programs, enabling workers who express an interest in the cybersecurity field, and working with diversity teams to fund training and scholarships for underrepresented groups such as women and minorities.
Another fundamental approach to filling the growing skills gap is facilitating the transition of exceptional military veterans into the cybersecurity industry by providing professional networking, training, and mentoring. Cyberskills programs that work with vets are able to capitalize on the natural synergy between participating in national defense unit in the Armed Services and defending critical information for businesses and government agencies. These programs provide benefits such as professional networking, training in the latest networking and security technologies, interview coaching, resume review and revision, and mentoring.
These programs start, however, by introducing veterans to the possibility of a career in the cybersecurity industry, combined with the promises of assistance with securing internships or employment. Such positions may be available at an enterprise hosting the program, with one of their key partners, or with companies that belong to a cooperative of regional or vertical organizations.
Making a Smooth Transition
A graduate of the Fortinet FortiVet program, Jeff Crockett, is a five-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force. He is currently the Cyber Monitoring Network Defense Development Sr. Associate at Capital One.
Crockett served in the United States Air Force as a Security Police Officer at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, and in the United States Marine Corps as an Avionics Electrician. As he prepared to leave the military, he participated in the Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation Program. He then started searching for employment and discovered that there are a number of programs that help veterans like him transition into the cybersecurity field.
He found an article about the one such program and immediately contacted the program administrator. That administrator described the program and helped Crockett begin the application process. Crockett later explained, “I was very impressed with what I heard, as the program is set up really well to help veterans transition from a military culture to a civilian, commercial culture.”
Not all programs are the same, but Crockett found this program to be comprehensive. “There are a lot of programs out there, even for transitioning out of the military, but none had the breadth of services, nor the support and follow-up,” Crockett explained. An effective program needs to cover every aspect of the transition, from skills training to the job search, including how to set up a LinkedIn profile, how to target certain jobs, and how to prepare for an interview – including everything from what kinds of questions the candidate will be asked to how they should dress for an interview.
Ideally, the entire process should be overseen by someone who has served in the military and understands the complexities and challenges veterans face when transitioning into the civilian sector.
In Crockett’s case, he started receiving emails from potential employers within days of entering the program and was soon interviewing with companies. A letter of recommendation from the program assured prospective employers that he had a tested and proven set of skills that had been verified by a leader in the cybersecurity industry.
Crockett is convinced that his participation in his transition program helped him secure his current position at Capital One where he is now on the front lines of their Cyber Monitoring Defense Development program researching and developing the programs that will proactively protect and defend the Capital One network.
A Path to Success for All
Today’s businesses and governments face a two-pronged problem: a rapidly expanding and complex threat landscape combined with a dearth of cybersecurity personnel. Rather than waiting for a solution to appear, proactive organizations are creating programs that add to the pool of cybersecurity know-how in general and can solve their own personnel needs in particular. This increases the speed of developing basic expertise in the field and start veterans on an in-demand career path.
This approach is increasingly turning to veterans seeking to transition out of the military into civilian life. Developing an education, training and experience-based strategy like the one that helped Jeff Crockett will allow public and private organizations to establish and maintain the critical foundation of seasoned security expertise necessary to defend against the increasing onslaught of sophisticated attacks.
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