How to attract and retain great cyber security talent

Give your new graduates mentoring support and challenge them, rather than just giving them menial tasks if you want to attract and retain the best says Dr. Scott McVicar.

How to attract and retain great cyber security talent
How to attract and retain great cyber security talent

A growing need for cyber-security organisations to recruit the best and brightest to defend governments, organisations and businesses from attack has meant that the market for university graduates in the cyber-security sector has expanded rapidly over the last few years.

According to UK government figures, the UK cyber-security sector is worth more than £6 billion and employs 40,000 people. In addition to national demands, the cyber export market grew from £850 million to more than £1 billion during 2013, and is expected to reach £2 billion by 2016. All this investment is to tackle the growing ‘business' of cyber-crime – an example of which can be seen in GOV.UK's recent findings that 81 percent of large corporations reported a cyber-breach in 2014, with an estimated cost to organisations between £600,000 to £1.15 million per attack

At BAE Systems Applied Intelligence we have significantly stepped up our graduate recruitment programme in recent years, as we recognise the need for the UK to foster talent within the cyber-security sector if we are to tackle cyber-crime effectively. For example, in 2014, over a third of BAE Systems' graduate intake – around 120 out of 287 – joined BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, to help companies and organisations protect themselves and their customers from fraud, cyber-attack and digital criminality.

To achieve these solid graduate numbers and attract the best talent, in a landscape that is becoming increasingly competitive, we are focusing on utilising our expert alumni and keeping the enthusiasm up once our graduates come in-house.

At its core, the ability to attract bright graduates lies in the relationships your company has with universities and organisations that produce the strongest talent.

An example could be the Cyber Security Challenge UK. Backed by more than 50 sponsors from across government, industry and academia, including BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, the Challenge incorporates a range of competitions, including a schools-specific programme, that test the knowledge and skills of the UK's young people. Within the Challenge, participants experience face to face competitions with adversaries, as well as a series of technical challenges that are assessed by a number of its experts within the cyber-security field.

What I find interesting about challenges and competitions such as this, is that they motivate us to continue the fun when the graduates come in-house. As too often happens, once companies get graduates in they relegate these junior members to the most menial, unexciting tasks. In order to retain and engage with our graduates we look to set them up with strong mentors and experts who will challenge them and test them on a daily basis.

If we are to effectively and efficiently tackle the cyber-attacks that we are starting to see with more regularity we must come together as an industry and do our best to get the best and brightest young people on our side.

Contributed by Dr. Scott McVicar, General Manager EMEA, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

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