Only business unusual will help Europe fill the cyber skills gap – | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

The European cybersecurity skills shortage is well recognized and so are the consequences. The skills shortage means that organizations of all shapes and sizes have weaker security than they should, putting themselves and everyone they interact with in harm’s way.

Nanna-Louise Linde is Vice President of European Government Affairs at Microsoft.

Simply put, with a mid-sized city’s worth of skilled people needed, it’s time for the public and private sectors to push further and faster – together.

The recently launched EU Cybersecurity Skills Academy has the potential to make an impact on addressing the skills gap. It sets out to streamline different cyber skills initiatives and boost their overall effectiveness. That’s why Microsoft pledged to support the Academy committing to train 100,000 European learners over two years. But more companies need to sign up – so far only a handful have made pledges. Imagine the possibilities when a wave of companies gets on board – and they bring their own networks with them.

From our own efforts to build cybersecurity skills in Europe, we’ve learned that business as usual will not lead to success. Companies need to look beyond traditional recruitment and skilling strategies. One option includes pivoting towards underrepresented communities, where untapped talent abounds yet opportunities are scarce. For example, MolenGeek, an innovative skilling partner and tech incubator, is based in an area of Brussels blighted by high unemployment. In partnership with MolenGeek, Microsoft provides cybersecurity training programs that lead to industry-recognized certifications. By equipping trainees with vital cybersecurity skills, the project opens new career opportunities for this historically overlooked population. In Poland, a leading cybersecurity NGO called The Kosciuszko Institute runs a cyber trainee program for Polish women and female refugees from Ukraine. And in Germany, refugees such as Arman Dinarvand who fled Iran with his family in 2018, can follow a Cybersecurity Digital Career Track at the ReDI School of Digital Integration.

Such initiatives also point at the need for companies to better support NGO skilling partners who are so essential in identifying and reaching untapped talent. It makes a huge difference when industry can help them pinpoint and analyze the skills needed by IT providers so that they build the right training programs. People want to invest their time in courses and industry-recognized certifications that will get them hired faster in better jobs. One way to address the short supply of cybersecurity trainers in projects such as ReDI School of Digital Integration in Denmark, Germany and Sweden is for volunteer trainers from the technology sector to step in.  And because NGOs rarely have the transnational reach of corporates, companies can step in to help connect them with counterparts in other countries so that they can learn from each other.

Making the industry more attractive for new recruits must be part of the plan as well. A competitive hiring market means that a career in cybersecurity needs to have a bigger and broader appeal.

First, let’s open it up. Empower and encourage women to pursue the exciting opportunities that cybersecurity offers.  Show that a career in this field is about meaningful work that will literally keep the lights on, hospitals running, or planes flying. But with women representing only 25% of the global cybersecurity workforce, addressing the diversity gaps also requires intentionality in program design and execution. We must create more inclusive and supportive learning environments. That’s why it’s critical to support organizations such as Women4Cyber, a foundation working to promote and support the participation of women in cybersecurity in Europe, or WiCyS, a global community of women, allies, and advocates dedicated to advancing women in the profession.

Second, let’s make it easier to get the right qualifications. Opportunities to learn basic digital skills will make cybersecurity qualifications more attainable. We must all accept that traditional education is not the only path. A recent OECD report “Building a Skilled Cyber Security Workforce” offers insights from five countries about the demand and supply in the cybersecurity profession over the past 10 years. The research will be extended to eleven countries, including Poland, France and Germany, next year. In England, for example, the education system offers a range of formal and informal cybersecurity training pathways. Some non-formal training options, such as bootcamps, present shorter, flexible learning avenues that end with potential job opportunities. These intensive courses lower access barriers to entry level roles and are also a valuable stepping stone for those seeking to specialize within the cybersecurity sector.

Third, let’s ensure that qualifications can travel. Cross border recognition of qualifications will make the industry more attractive, more diverse and more agile. For example, Edukamu is a Finland-based tech skills online platform with English language learning. It now offers a micro-degree in cybersecurity. Its beauty is that the credits earned in the micro-degree can be counted towards other university cybersecurity degrees in any EU country. An approach we need to make the norm, not the exception.

Cybersecurity Skills Academy, on-the-ground partnerships with NGOs and broader collaboration amongst industry that we will create a resilient, skilled cybersecurity workforce that will secure our digital future.


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National Cyber Security