The cybersecurity skills gap is one of the most widely-reported technology issues across industries — and for good reason. Predictions say that the gap will produce 1.5 million open and unfilled positions by the year 2020. With the frequency and severity of cyberattacks rising every day — last year alone brought us the disastrous, global ransomware attacks WannaCry, NotPetya and Bad Rabbit — what all industries need more than ever are talented cybersecurity professionals. And the skills gap is hitting state and local governments the hardest.
With cybersecurity talent in such high demand, hiring trained professionals has become a very competitive process. Empowered with so many employment options, these cybersecurity experts can command increasingly higher salaries and benefits, and state and local government organizations that have more restrictive budgets often find it difficult to compete with private-sector organizations vying for the same talent. As private-sector corporations come to take security more seriously in the wake of high-profile incidents like the ransomware attack on the city of Atlanta, government agencies are struggling more than ever to find and recruit trained security professionals.
So, what is the answer? Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, or one solution that will bring about immediate results to ease today’s challenges. But there is a solution that, with time and investment, may prove to be our only hope. It is time we prioritize reaching out to the largest pool of untapped talent: kids. It has long been said that children are the future, and that includes the future of cybersecurity.
Several nonprofit organizations have already cropped up with the goal of further developing the technology and cybersecurity skills of children — especially for girls, who represent a large group of untapped talent that will help close the skills gap faster. For example, last year, the Girl Scouts launched a new Cybersecurity Badge. Organizations like Girls Who Code are offering summer camps nationwide to develop girls’ tech skills. And Austin, Texas’ local Girlstart hosts after-school programs and events for girls that aim to increase their confidence in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. A host of industry-leading technology companies have already pledged their financial and social support to these initiatives.
While government agencies may not have the same funds as companies like Google and Apple do to donate to programs like these, they can become involved in a number of nonprofits to offer support that benefits the organization while also introducing their agency to tomorrow’s talent now. A few examples include nonprofits that:
We are all responsible for the fight against cybercrime. Opening up today’s kids (and tomorrow’s leaders) to the world of cybersecurity is an initiative that state and local governments need to embrace in order to make future governments, as well as the entire world, a little safer and brighter. They can start by connecting with organizations that are shaping tomorrow’s talent — by connecting children with experienced mentors, providing access to higher education and offering the opportunity to make a difference — to make an impact on and establish relationships with tomorrow’s talent, today.