Apprenticeships Could Solve Cyber-Skills Crisis, Say Experts

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Offering apprenticeships could help to encourage more young people into the cybersecurity sector, alleviating skills shortages, according to a new poll run by Infosecurity Europe.

The region’s top cybersecurity event, held annually by Infosecurity publisher Reed Exhibitions, asked its Twitter followers for their thoughts on the ongoing skills crisis in the industry.

Some 43% argued that apprenticeships, in which trainees learn on-the-job whilst studying for a formal qualification, would be a good fit for a fast-moving, hands-on sector like cybersecurity, where degree courses can often be out-of-date by the time students have finished them.

Respondents also cited the need for a formal career path (27%), more role models and mentors (17%) and greater diversity (13%) as important in helping to reduce skills shortages.

The latest figures from (ISC)2 revealed that, although shortages fell for the first time globally last year, they still totalled more than three million.

The crisis has not been helped by COVID-19 which has forced 36% of respondents to the poll to institute a hiring freeze.

This chimes with a CrowdStrike survey released this week which revealed that 44% of UK organizations refused to take on any new security professionals last year. In fact, the UK had the lowest average of new cybersecurity hires of all countries surveyed, and respondents raised concerns that this could amplify the increased cyber-risks emanating from the pandemic.

Amar Singh, CEO of Cyber Management Alliance, backed the idea of apprenticeships to build up UK-wide capability.

“It’s a pipeline — you can't simply pick someone up and say ‘You’re now infosec.’ That individual has to be trained and inspired from a young age,” he added. “If they’re not, by the time they’re 16 or 18 this becomes more difficult because they’re already established on another path.” 

Maxine Holt, senior research director at Omdia, has first-hand experience of this route into professional employment.

“After doing my BTEC in computer studies I got an apprenticeship, learning on the job while studying part-time for my degree,” she explained. “I also got to work in other parts of the business, which really helped me understand how they interacted with IT.” 

Infosecurity Europe will run from June 8-10 2021 at London’s Olympia.

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