Diversity deficient cyber security industry - skills gap made worse


The cyber gap, the difference between the demand for cyber security professionals and their supply, is projected to reach 1.8million by 2022, and with the on-going debate over the diversity in the workplace, it is particularly shocking that women currently only make up 20% of the industry's workforce.

The cyber security world has a reputation for exploiting opaque techno-fear as a trading vehicle; often creating confusion in industry and public over the threat and solutions. However, it is this very perception that also deters women from joining the ranks of a profession that desperately needs their skills, talents, as well as their numbers and the value inherent in simple diversity. The long and short of it is, the cyber security industry simply isn't sustainable without the right balance of workforce, and something needs to be done about it.

While the sad shortage of women with a STEM background is well-known and undisputed, the truth is, the cyber security profession is made up of both technical and non-technical disciplines. Therefore, the lack of a technical background can't be used a deterrent for bringing more women into the profession. And even for those disciplines where technical knowledge is required, there are many entry level positions where basic technical knowledge is neither complex nor challenging to learn and understand.

Protection Group International (PGI), supported by Hawker Chase, a specialist cyber recruitment and human capital consultancy, have now set up an initiative to proactively address this problem. Women in Cyber is a DCMS sponsored training programme that converts candidates into an entry level cyber security professional, with employment guaranteed before training starts. Candidates will simply need to demonstrate aptitude for this kind of work (both technical and non-technical) and the training will do the rest. The goal is to empower large numbers of women who are looking to convert, or to start a new or different career, to use PGI's state-of-the-art Cyber Academy and training programme expertise to move seamlessly into a profession where they are badly needed. It is hoped that this initial programme will be followed by a much larger roll-out of this model.

Women in Cyber is fully accredited by industry-recognised certifications, equipping the trainees with all they will need to carry out cyber security roles.

The beauty of all of this? The candidates do not necessarily need previous experience or qualifications; only aptitude. Everything they learn in the 10 to 12-week programme equips them for an entry level career in the industry, opening the talent pool for security professionals, reducing cost to hire and reducing cost to deliver, but more importantly, quickly addressing the cyber skills shortage and diversity issues before it becomes a bigger problem for UK based businesses.

PGI's programme design involves:

  1. Targeting female candidates and their representative bodies, regardless of technical background.
  2. Target more forward-thinking employers who are looking to hire cyber security professionals.
  3. Online selection process gauging the aptitude of candidates for cyber security careers.
  4. Further assessment and an interview, leading to an offer of employment by partner employers.
  5. Candidate completion of a 10 to 12-week cyber security training programme, with options for some home learning and targeted child-care support available.
  6. Subsequent deployment within employers as Information Security Specialists, Governance, Regulation and Compliance officers, SOC analysts and Penetration Testers.

Brian Lord, PGI's Managing Director said: "The demand for cyber security specialists is at an all-time-high. I refuse to sign up to the industry's self-serving charade that only those with special technical skills can enter the profession. No-one doubts there are jobs where deep technical expertise is required, but there are many more that are either non-technical or require a basic entry level technical knowledge that can be taught. 35 percent of organisations are unable to fill open security jobs, even though 82 percent expect to be attacked this year, and the industry is killing itself by creating artificial barriers to entry for 50% of the working population.

"We already have some progressive employers who both agree with this principle and have signed up to the programme. We have tested it with success in the UK and abroad and so know it works. This is the driving force behind the partnership between PGI & Hawker Chase, to 'create' the necessary diverse talent to transform a profession, and the world in which it operates, into something less opaque, less scaremongering and more normal."

The success of the programme has already been demonstrated through a pilot of mixed-gender veterans from a variety of backgrounds who wanted to convert to the cyber security profession and in the banking industry in the Middle East. PGI is running a research project alongside the programme to analyse the best way in which this methodology can be scaled across the industry to help address the broader cyber security skills gap and kill the gender gap once and for all.

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