At any given time, Ashburn-based cybersecurity firm Telos Corp. has about 50 job openings.
But actually filling all of those IT jobs? It’s been getting trickier as cyber vulnerabilities ramp up and companies increasingly compete for limited talent to defend against the threats, said John Wood, Telos’ CEO and a board member of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.
“We’re robbing from Peter to pay Paul rather than building up more cyber talent,” Wood said.
In a bid to address that issue in Northern Virginia, the NVTC announced a new academic partnership with the Northern Virginia Community College to help the school understand what skills companies really want in their new hires. The two will jointly conduct research this year on the region’s cyber workforce needs, while giving NOVA more access and exposure to NVTC’s business membership.
NOVA leaders will regularly attend meetings of the NVTC-led Tech Talent Initiative Employer Collaborative to get more employer feedback about how NOVA could better tailor its curriculum to workforce needs, said Steve Partridge, the college’s vice president of workforce development.
For instance, Wood said companies like Telos don’t necessarily need workers with four-year degrees. Instead, he often wants applicants who have certain types of credentials, such as what’s known as the information systems security professional certification.
Other companies may be looking to hire someone with a four-year degree in computer science with a mix of additional certifications, said Allison Gilmore, NVTC’s vice president of communications and strategic initiatives.
In addition, an NVTC study released in December showed employers said they need graduates with more soft skills that can’t be taught, such as communication and critical-thinking skills.
This is a particularly deep need for the Washington region, in which 161,000 information technology jobs were advertised just in the last year — the second-largest region for IT workers seeking jobs — according to NVTC research. The industry is expected to grow 1.7 percent in the next decade, adding 34,000 new IT jobs to the region’s economy by 2027.
And yet, a broader skills gap remains nationally, as thousands struggle to find employment while tech employers struggle to find a qualified workforce. As USA Today reported earlier this year, there will be about 1 million more computing jobs than potential applicants by 2020, according to analysis from Code.org.