How to Bridge the IT and Cyber Skills Gap in 2021

There is a phrase heard by so many on their morning commute, but actually listened to by so few. “Mind the gap”, synonymous with the daily UK commuter grind, currently takes on a far greater significance for UK businesses on the hunt for the best and the brightest minds in the IT and cybersecurity sectors. According to recent research by recruitment firm Robert Walters and data firm Vacancysoft, 58% of hiring managers put information security as their most required skill, but only a small number of tech workers have the skills that businesses are looking for. The study also found only 10% of IT professionals have the cybersecurity skills the UK’s tech sector currently needs.

These findings highlight the increasing gap between the skills employers need, and the talent actually available to them. This lack of talent would be concerning enough during more benign economic times. However, given the rising levels of unemployment, coupled with the fact that hacking and ransomware attacks are on the rise, there is an even more pressing need for employers to bridge this widening skills gap. With higher education currently going through fundamental changes, there is an immediate need to help people learn new skills in order to find the digital jobs of tomorrow.

The challenge, particularly when trying to recruit in highly specialist industries, is finding and screening the right people. If there is any way to overcome this challenge in 2021, then universities need to team up with enterprise cybersecurity experts who are up to date with the most recent methodologies. After all, building a curriculum for highly technical sectors is not easy. If a curriculum can be built based on specific input from specialists, then there is a greater chance that the right people can be sourced to learn this curriculum. Combating cybercrime is, of course, a rapidly evolving skill. Therefore, the content of any university curriculum teaching the subject needs to be constantly receiving input from business experts who are fighting the cybercrime war on a daily basis.

Universities need to ensure that there is a direct link between the curriculum they deploy, and the number of people who actually find employment quickly. Typically, this would be within the first six months. Truth be told, a high opt-in rate is really the only way to measure the success of any program. In addition to having deep sector experience and expertise built into curriculums, universities also need to ensure that their programs are accessible during this new era of hybrid online live learning. From Wi-Fi issues to missing classes for personal reasons, there could be any number of reasons as to why people are unable join live seminars or lectures. With this in mind, it is imperative that people can go over materials again outside the academic teaching environment.

Creating generational impact by accelerating the transition into the digital age, while changing the face of the global workforce, has never been more important. If the UK education system has any hope of transforming lives by educating global learners for the IT and cybersecurity careers of the future, then it needs a fundamentally different solution to help people learn new skills in order to find employment. Narrowing the current skills gap is achievable, but only if a comprehensive curriculum is deployed. One that not only allows people to enter the digital skills market immediately with a secure job, but also enables them to continue learning and understand how to grow in this job in order to achieve generational stability. 

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