The security industry is suffering from a complex staffing shortage, and the dreaded millennials might just be the answer to this problem. Some in the industry disagree because “millennial” is a bad word. Millennials have been deemed spoiled, entitled, moochers who are trying to break into your workplace and demand the jobs the older generations worked harder and longer for.
But there are those who see that millennials are a diverse group of people who aren’t just threatening to get into the workforce; they have arrived and they intend to work hard. (And to be clear, they don’t like being called millennials. I know this because I am one, and I prefer to identify as the Harry Potter generation).
So those in the security world who recognize the positive side of hiring young people have a question: How do we get millennials interested in working in security?
You don’t need a translator to communicate with millennials. There is no “trick” to getting them interested in security. The problem isn’t with the age demographic; it’s with the lack of respected, effective and widely available security education.
Technology is barely taught in the average high school, never mind cybersecurity. Technology degree programs in colleges and universities are everywhere now, but where are the cybersecurity degree programs?
The “trick” to reach younger people isn’t by developing a popular iPhone app or getting a catchy hashtag trending, it’s setting up broadly-offered and well-respected education programs that provide real expertise. How are millennials going to learn if there is no one willing to teach them?
In my experience, millennials want jobs that matter on a grander scale. This generation recognizes the problems in the world and wants to make a difference. Perhaps that makes them idealists, but it also means that part of teaching millennials should be showing them why security matters. This task seems to be getting easier because of all the highly publicized hacks and data breaches happening. Cybersecurity is becoming unavoidable, so millennials will discover it to be a valuable and fulfilling career path. But not if they aren’t taught how security actually works, and not if they’re treated like locusts by their older, biased coworkers. They need guidance and education from the generations who have the benefit of experience.
Some argue that millennials threaten security and privacy, so why let them into the field? Because one day you are going to retire, or die, or become a whistleblower and disappear to Russia, and someone will have to keep the world secure in your absence. Train millennials early and well, so that by the time you’re gone, there’s someone to keep working who has had the benefit of absorbing wisdom from your experience.