Addressing the national shortage of cybersecurity talent

(BPT) - There's an urgent need for the United States to invest in cybersecurity infrastructure and safeguard from potential threats. Domestically and abroad, society has seen a triple-digit increase in cybersecurity attacks that have disrupted mass telecommunication companies, been used as a tactic in the Russia-Ukraine war, and held financial firms hostage with their own information.

Cyber incidents are becoming more sophisticated and are targeting organizations of all sizes, especially those that work with personal information. Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the nation, was targeted in a ransomware attack on its information-technology infrastructure, Uber was the victim of a data breach after cybercriminals compromised the Slack account of an employee in early September, the Red Cross experienced a security breach that compromised the personal data of those the organization seeks to help and DoorDash experienced a cyberattack that exposed customers' personal information.

Unfortunately, U.S. businesses and organizations struggle to prepare for these threats in part because of a shortage of skilled cyber workers. This underscores the importance of cultivating new talent through education, upskilling and reskilling to develop the expertise required to protect and defend our data and systems.

The national talent shortage has been driven by a lack of employee training and access to cybersecurity careers.

It is estimated that there are approximately 700,000 cybersecurity jobs yet to be filled in the U.S. At the same time, the cybersecurity sector continues to be shaped by rapid technological change, thus requiring skill sets that constantly need to be updated. Many academic institutions aren't able to adapt their programming to quickly develop a pool of skilled cyber workers. Without ongoing upskilling and training by their employers, IT professionals can't keep up and properly protect their organizations.

'Cyberattacks affect our day-to-day lives, our economy and our national security. The number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide grew 350% between 2013 and 2021,' said DeVry University's Chief Information Security Officer, Fred Kwong. 'Higher education institutions and businesses must ensure that cybersecurity education and career pathways are available to everyone. Without talent to quickly fill these roles, companies will continue to be vulnerable to these attacks.'

A recent Aspen Institute report estimates that only 4% of cybersecurity workers identify as Hispanic, while 9% identify as Black, and 24% as women, which highlights cybersecurity's diversity gap. Creating access to and awareness of cybersecurity career pathways - through methods like flexible programming, mentorship programs and corporate partnerships - would not only support a diverse talent pipeline, but it would also help fill the high volume of job openings the nation currently faces.

The current cybersecurity landscape presents a unique opportunity to augment a skilled pool of talent.

It is incumbent upon academic institutions, companies and government agencies to place increased emphasis on cybersecurity education and skills-based pathways to create a talent pool that is cyber-savvy. There has never been a more appropriate time to invest in upskilling employees and arming students with the knowledge and access they need to advance in cyber career pathways.

DeVry University seeks to bridge the talent gap by offering new ways to anyone with an interest in the cybersecurity field to access academic opportunities through agile education and initiatives. Recognizing the critical need for cybersecurity talent, DeVry created the Future Cyber Defenders Scholars Program and scholarship to prepare the next generation of cybersecurity professionals with training and networking opportunities, and it launched a Nonprofit Cyber Grant Program, which will help nonprofits in Atlanta upskill their employees in cybersecurity.

Our ability to combat attacks on data and infrastructure will only be strengthened through dedicated investment by employers and educators in cybersecurity training and talent development. With the increasing number of cyberattacks on all types of organizations, there is a growing need for well-prepared cyber talent. To foster cyber resiliency and expand the current talent pool, it's critical to develop trained professionals who remain proficient through upskilling, up-to-date academic programming and accessible education.

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