We have always known about the talent shortfall in technology and cybersecurity, writes Anthony Webb, VP International of A10 Networks.

Back in 2019 I wrote an article on talent supply issues, but since then we have come up against an even larger hurdles… the pandemic, Brexit and so much more, as a result this skills gap has widened, particularly within the UK. It was announced that the world has a 40 million skilled worker shortage in 2021, but by 2030 this is expected to global talent shortage is expected to double to reach 85.2 million workers.

This means that companies worldwide risk losing $8.4 trillion in revenue because of the lack of skilled talent. This gap is keenly felt in security and again there is currently a shortage of 350,000+ cybersecurity specialists in Europe alone.

I firmly believe that the future of security will only be as strong as tomorrow’s talent. And as the talent gap continues, companies need to get creative about how and where they find the next cyber expert.

Cybersecurity as a career option

While the cybersecurity industry is a fantastic and dynamic place to work, unfortunately, many are not aware the industry exists as a career option. Therefore, vendors need to do more to attract talent into the sector. This industry has very low unemployment, and as mentioned above, many countries have a deficit of employees. It is a very fast-moving and exciting industry, but sometimes I feel like a lone crusader when I talk about the benefits of this industry to new talent.

I think many are not aware because there are no specific university degrees in cybersecurity, so it is overlooked as a natural career choice to pursue. That said, the NCSC has just started to offer degree apprenticeships in cybersecurity, but it is the only certified degree apprenticeship in England and Wales Bursary and Degree Apprenticeship - NCSC.GOV.UK.

The NCSC CyberFirst programme is designed to help young people explore their passion for tech by introducing them to cybersecurity. CyberFirst covers a broad range of activities and offers a bursary to financially support undergraduates through university in a subject of their choice, in addition to a cybersecurity degree apprenticeship scheme.

This is fantastic, but the industry needs to do more, such as partnering with local schools and funding more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programmes. We need to create more internship and apprenticeship opportunities for early talent - like the NCSC programme. In addition, vendors should look at launching robust upskilling or retraining initiatives internally.

Passionate problem solvers

Those looking towards a career in cybersecurity need to be able to thrive in an environment that is dynamic and fast-moving. It is a sector that is critical to the UK economy and to the daily lives of people up and down the country.

Key attributes include being able to be calm under pressure, be lateral thinkers, versatile and dedicated problem solvers. It’s the same as any industry; police officers have chosen that career path through a desire to protect the public. Cybersecurity professionals are passionate about protecting the infrastructure of nations and enterprises. This is an important job, but an exhilarating one, too. Without a second thought, people, businesses and institutions all over the UK are relying on the cybersecurity team to defend our digital world.

Cybersecurity professionals also need to be able to simplify complex issues and communicate in layman’s terms. This means that anyone in the organisation - from the board to the receptionist - can understand how to protect the business.

High stakes, high rewards

Today, we live in a world where our phones are rarely out of our hands and our laptops are central to our ability to perform work. Since the pandemic, we’ve gone online for just about everything and this means we are exposing more data than ever. This reliance on technology makes protecting our devices, networks, and data critical. This is an industry where the stakes are high.

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Data breaches, exfiltration and high ransoms are making headlines daily and the costs to organisations, their brand reputation and their customers has become astronomically high. But there are also high rewards for working in the industry, cybersecurity professionals have the opportunity to, not only solve critical problems, but use technology for good.

The pandemic has shone a light on the escalating threat landscape in all industries. The implications of a compromised credit card or an unsuspecting phishing link are great. Hackers can earn more money with minimal effort than ever before. Cybersecurity industry professionals need to respond with speed and innovation and think like a cybercriminal. The more hackers we face, the smarter security professionals need to be. There are clearly endless opportunities for career growth.

Explore the possibilities

Where should someone interested in a career in cybersecurity begin?

Get as much varied experience as possible. In today’s work environment, the days of working for one company for your entire career are over. If offered an assignment abroad, grasp it with both hands. It can result in becoming more experienced in how different cultures deal with data protection and cybersecurity needs.

Resources like the NCSC provide information about cybersecurity apprenticeships, and hopefully in the near term, we will start to see similar initiatives. Likewise, people in the cybersecurity industry need to do a better job educating and informing those entering the workforce about career opportunities.

Becoming a cybersecurity professional requires the ability to learn and constantly acquire new skills. Although there may not be any higher education courses specialising in this area, there are still so many resources which individuals can learn from such as online learning, cybersecurity books, and security-related news. If you are an innovative, smart person, applying to roles in technology, you will always find a way to solve a cybersecurity problem.