Surprises abound in global survey of cyber-security skills

Raytheon's global survey of cyber-security skills has confirmed a gender gap in education, uncovered surprise growth in Middle East skill sets and revealed ambivalent attitudes to cyber-security among so-called millennials.

The cyber-skills gap is global
The cyber-skills gap is global

A new report claims to measure the extent of the global cyber-security talent gap

In a new report on millennials and cyber-security, IT company Raytheon has come up with some interesting results, chiefly taking a global look at young people's preparedness for cyber-security and their prospects for entering the industry as cyber-security professionals.

The production of Securing Our Future: Closing the Cyber Talent Gap was a cross-industry effort, bringing together cyber-security companies, government actors like the US Department of Homeland Security and private institutions like Comcast and Blackberry. 

The researchers surveyed nearly 4000 people, between the ages of 18 and 26, from Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, the UK, United Arab Emirates and the US.

The report doesn't underplay the scope of the problem or the opportunity presented by the global skills gap. 

“As stories in the news of digital attacks against individuals and companies are becoming a common reality, the high demand globally for cyber-security professionals keeps growing as the threat increases,” the report says. 

While the danger of attack has increased not only in practical risk but in people's minds, preparation for cyber-attacks has not followed suit: “This talent gap has serious implications for domestic and international economics and security and must be addressed.”

Chief among Securing Our Future's findings is that although millennials might be broadly interested in cyber-security, they are not being equipped with the skills to pursue that path.  

Globally, 58 percent of millennials said they were never taught how to stay safe online and 62 percent said that they had never been told by a teacher or guidance counsellor that a career in cyber-security was even an option.

Dr Stephen Wright, manager of the National Cyber Skills Centre, a company that trains people in cyber-security, spoke to SCMagazineUK.com and said that while the UK has a skills gap that never fails to be a topic of grave conversation throughout the industry, this problem is global.

Wright lived in the US for 16 years and said, “They're facing the same problem. I would imagine throughout Europe the same issues are there."

While the Middle East doesn't buck this general trend, in many key areas it outperforms both the US and Western Europe. This area of the world might be the one to watch for the cyber-security professionals of the future. 

Young people in the Middle East have a better understanding – 12 percent better than the US – of what a cyber-security career involves. Young adults in the Middle East outperformed all other categories in being taught cyber-security in the classroom, with 59 percent of respondents saying they had learned about it in school.

A spokesperson from Raytheon told SC, "Middle Eastern young adults are getting good education and cyber career awareness is high.” 

However, he lamented, “Career interest remains low. There is a clear need for educators, parents and career counsellors to do more.” Although education is good, 42 percent of young adults are less likely to look for a job in the sector.

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