As a growing cybersecurity talent gap emerges, governments and industry recruit tomorrow’s cyber defenders at an ever younger age.
Elizabeth Lewelling is—at first glance—your typical all American kid. She’s gregarious and confident, a seasoned pro as a Girl Scout, not afraid to knock on doors to sell thin mints nor be in the wilderness to get her survival badge. But these months, she’ll be participating in an all together different activity than what most people expect Girl Scouts or any young person to be doing during the hot lemonade days of summer. She—along with 1.8 million Girl Scouts—will be shooting for the latest badge offered by the Scouts: one in cybersecurity. “I’ll definitely be trying to get cybersecurity badges,” Lewelling says assuredly. “I’m going into eighth grade now and we use technology for everything so I want to know how I can protect myself online. It’s really important,” she reported to her hometown paper, the LA Times.
She and the organisation are just some of the groups that the cybersecurity industry and governments will be addressing to fill a growing need; that of cybersecurity specialists. Frost & Sullivan, one of the most respected voices in the cybersecurity industry, predicts that 1.5 million jobs will be unfilled by 2020, one of the largest unaddressed market segments in HR. Taking an upstream approach to secure tomorrow’s talent needs, multiple strategies are being rolled out to recruit emerging cyber warriors. “Building a pool of talent to fill these new collar jobs is also an important part of the equation. A great example of this is the P-TECH educational model (Pathways in Technology Early College High School), which provides a training avenue for students to jumpstart their careers in cybersecurity. Public high school and college students in grades 9-14 get hands-on experience with the most sought-after technical skills. By combining specific elements of high school curricula, community college courses, hands-on skills training, and professional mentoring, these students are primed for successful entry into highly technical career fields,” states Mark van Zadelhoff, expounding the programme’s success in the Harvard Business Review.
That initiative is just one of thousands being rolled out, all over the world, to capture the imaginations of youth. And of course, at only 7-11% of the IT workforce at present, getting women in—an in this scenario girls—involved with IT is one of the fastest routes to addressing the problem. “We’ve seen girls being users of technology but not necessarily programmers, and robotics is a great way to learn how to code,” said Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of the Girl Scouts. “It lets girls have a fun experience with friends while learning a skill,” she continues, a strategy that we hope will help address the 1.5 million talent crisis that’s looming.