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May 8, 2020

Narrowing the Cybersecurity Skills Gap Now for the Post-COVID-19 Future

Working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered digital vulnerabilities that demand capable cybersecurity professionals.  The technology training and hiring ecosystem can help with this — and also help the country recover financially from the pandemic.

 

So says Amy Kardel, vice president, strategic workforce relationships at CompTIA. CompTIA is the leading association for the global information technology industry.

 

Kardel shared these and other insights during a webinar presented by the National CyberWatch Center.

 

Joining her were Teana Fredeen, operations manager at SynED / Cyber-Guild, and Dan Weeks, chief evangelist at Fullstack Academy of Code, who spoke about strategies to tap a swelling talent pool energized to launch cybersecurity careers.

 

Escalating numbers of people working remotely are generating an unprecedented volume of digital traffic and exposing increasing dependence on collaborative technologies for businesses and organizations. And many remote workers say they lack strong technical capabilities.

 

Kardel cited a survey of 500 professionals in the United States conducted between March 13-23. “Only 20% said they had worked from home full time prior to COVID-19,” she said.

 

Furthermore, the survey showed companies face these challenges when it comes to remote work:

  • 42% needed better support options
  • 41% had budget constraints
  • 36% said their workforce lacked technical know-how

 

Fredeen says it’s imperative to grow the cybersecurity workforce to protect consumers, businesses and governments.

 

“Almost 1 million people are employed in cybersecurity roles in the United States, but 500,000 job openings still remain,” Fredeen said.

 

And according to Weeks, most of those jobs call for experience.

 

“What we want to do is grow the size of the overall cybersecurity workforce, rather than poach from other existing jobs to fill openings,” he said. “But it’s hard to get that first job if you have no experience.”

 

Narrowing that gap, the panelists said, requires a three-phase strategy:

  • Illuminate resources available for technology training and hiring,  
  • Elaborate options for acquiring additional experience, certifications and security clearance, and
  • Accelerate extracurricular training to enhance employees’ cybersecurity skills and experience

 

Illuminate

 

“CompTIA resources abound for training and hiring,” said Kardel.

 

CompTIA’s COVID-19 Resources Forum offers discussion boards, tips and tricks, virtual events and news for businesses. 

 

CompTIA’s Instructor Network provides free training tools, best practices tips and resources, and allows educators to communicate and collaborate with other instructors and CompTIA staff.  

 

Job seekers can seek guidance from CompTIA’s IT Career Path Planner, which illustrates job descriptions for typical technical roles, shares salary information and lists more than 18,000 job postings.

 

 

Elaborate

 

According to Fredeen, most job postings require a degree, and 80% of technical job openings call for experience. But the industry is changing, and she encourages companies to expand recruitment beyond these traditional parameters.

 

She suggests looking at “new collar workers,” people who may not hold a four-year degree. For instance, veterans often bring security clearance. Even with a degree, some graduates may not have certifications. 

 

Fredeen shares these suggestions for gaining experience:

  • Simulated learning through cyber competitions and cyber ranges provide experience and build teamwork and soft skills.
  • Internships give students practical experience and are low risk for employers.
  • Apprenticeships and work-based learning programs allow employers to customize training and build loyalty from employees.

 

Accelerate

 

Weeks says companies should hire the ideal team player; someone humble, hungry and smart. He says humble people focus on the greater good; hungry people go above and beyond and are passionate; and smart people practice emotional intelligence and common sense.

 

To view the full webinar, click here.

 

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