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How can Millennials enter cybersecurity careers in the enterprise?

Getting younger generations interested in cybersecurity careers isn't that hard, but it does require the industry to put effort into education. And enterprises should lead the way.

A recent study of young adults by Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance indicated that Millennials...

ages 18 to 26 aren't pursuing cybersecurity careers, thanks to a lack of awareness about security jobs and limited options for pursuing computer science degrees. What effect could this have on the information security workforce? And what can employers and security managers do, if anything, to get Millennials interested in cybersecurity careers?

The Raytheon study was published in October 2015, and was fielded by Zogby Analytics from July 29 to Aug. 10, 2015. The responses were generated from a survey of 3,871 adults from ages 18 to 26 in Australia, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, U.K., United Arab Emirates and the U.S.

The study reported that 79% of Millennials said they have never spoken to a practicing cybersecurity professional, and 46% said cybersecurity programs and activities were not available to them at all. Most (69%) Millennials surveyed enter college or the workforce believing their high school or secondary school had not offered them the classes or skills necessary, although this number is better in the Middle East than other parts of the world.

This has clearly affected the availability of a competent cybersecurity workforce, but what can employers and security managers do, if anything, to get Millennials interested in cybersecurity careers? Actually, in the U.S., there is a lot they can do. But first, let's look at what initiatives are taking place today.

In February 2004, a group of educators, students, and government and industry representatives gathered in San Antonio to discuss the formation of what is now the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC). This competition allows students from member universities to compete for an annual national capture-the-flag championship.

In 2008, for example, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona initiated the Western Regional CCDC (WRCCDC) that includes universities in California, Arizona and Nevada. The WRCCDC has grown to include over 1,000 student competitors from Cal Poly, in addition to others from regional universities. Today, there are 10 regional NCCDC competitions that vie for the coveted U.S. title at the national championship. This year's competition will be held April 24 to 26 in San Antonio. Sponsors for this competition include Homeland Security, Splunk, Wal-Mart Technology, National Security Agency, Boeing, Facebook, Microsoft and many others.

CyberPatriot is a National Youth Cyber Education Program conceived by the Air Force Association to inspire high school students toward cybersecurity careers or other sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines critical to our nation's future. CyberPatriot has over 3,300 teams in the U.S., Canada and U.S. territories involved -- 570 of which are in California. By the time these middle school and high school students attend college, they have more experience in cybersecurity than college students today.

Both NCCDC and CyberPatriot not only teach cybersecurity technical skills in hacking and protection measures, but they also teach ethics and responsibility, which are fundamental. The competition inculcates pride, resolve, teamwork, purpose and ethical standards that will guide these talented young minds in their future endeavors, hopefully in cybersecurity careers.

So, what can enterprises do to help these noble efforts? For one, they can sponsor these and many other similar organizations to build a future cybersecurity workforce that strengthens our national security.

Young people, left on their own, may channel their passions in the wrong direction and possibly become hackers or cybercriminals. Programs such as NCCDC and CyberPatriot prove to participants that there are greater, nobler initiatives in cybersecurity careers. Millennials are our future. Guidance counselors, parents, teachers and other educators need to know about these programs. With the help of enterprises and government, the future looks much more rewarding and safer for all.

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This was last published in April 2016

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