Clarity needed to cultivate next-gen cybersecurity workforce

Millennials are hesitant to pursue a career in cybersecurity, mainly because they aren't sure exactly what the job entails -- and if they have the proper training for it.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Millennials are reportedly the key to remediating the cybersecurity workforce shortage, but the up-and-comers lack clarity into what the job entails -- and whether or not they are ready for the challenge.

At an RSA Conference session Thursday, Michael Kaiser, executive director at the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), moderated a session with panelists Ann Barron-DiCamillo, director of US-CERT at the Department of Homeland Security, Cecily Joseph, vice president of corporate responsibility and chief diversity officer at Symantec Corp., and Jeffrey Jacoby, program engineering director at Raytheon. They focused on the trepidations high school and college students ages 18 to 26 -- commonly known as Millennials -- have about pursuing a cybersecurity career.

How to bring in Millennials

Jacoby cited a recent collaborative study by NCSA and Raytheon that found 25% of the 1,000 Millennials surveyed were interested in cybersecurity as a career, but 63% said they didn't fully understand the expectations of a cybersecurity role.

"Fundamentally they're asking a few questions," Jacoby said. "[They] want to understand what it is and will I like it, and can I do it. We've got a real problem today," Jacoby continued. "We've got to be able to figure out how do we get more people in the workforce today? It's extremely difficult and extremely expensive identifying talent, recruiting them and retaining them."

"The demand will continue to outpace supply, both in terms of speed and scale," Jacoby added.

So how can the problem be addressed?

Fortunately, Jacoby said, 41% of those polled said their teachers mentioned cybersecurity as a career option, up from the 18% in 2013 -- so things are improving.

Barron-DiCamillo stressed the importance of demystifying cybersecurity, which the DHS has been trying to accomplish through grants, scholarships, programs and training for students and teachers alike.

She also suggested to start cybersecurity training at home -- and to start it young. Millennials and future generations will be growing up in an insecure, connected world; setting the stage at home can prepare for the future and garner an interest in the topic of cybersecurity.

Educational improvements still needed

Jacoby said 64% of Millennials surveyed believed their high school computer classes didn't provide adequate skills to prepare them to enter the cybersecurity workforce.

Panel members agreed -- as did the polled Millennials -- that relevant classes, training and extracurricular activities could greatly benefit the future and viability of the cybersecurity workforce for years to come.

Implementing these changes, however, will prove quite a challenge.


Dig Deeper on Information security certifications, training and jobs