IT security job shortage: Youth may not be the answer

News by Doug Drinkwater

A New Year means new jobs for IT security experts.

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A New Year means new jobs for IT security experts, and while that's good news for business, there's the suggestion that new graduates may not be up to the tasks ahead.

With cyber threats expected to come thick and fast in 2014, new data suggests that businesses and employees alike will increasingly look to fill IT security vacancies, bringing an end to a perceived job shortage in recent times.

A new report, based on UCAS data on undergraduates, reveals that 4.17 percent (12,873) of new university students are to study computer science, up from 3.3 percent this time last year, and while that is seen by many as good news, some other industry observers are questioning if they come equipped with the right skills.

“Threats are more malicious than ever before but people with technical security skills are in short supply,” said Roger Gate, associate partner of security and privacy services at IBM, when speaking to SCMagazineUK.com.

His comments echoed a recent report from Forrester, which found that almost a third (29 percent) of European organisations had more than 10 percent of their allocated technical security headcount vacant.

“IT is increasingly both more complex and critical and UK businesses need to prepare for a future where these skills are in even higher demand than today. Skills shortages aren't going away,” he continued, before adding that graduates may not have the expertise on maths, big data and other aspects needed to succeed in this business.

“Many university courses focus on technical computing skills rather than the regulatory and compliance areas vital for securing businesses. Graduates must understand how mobile, cloud and big data megatrends are affecting the security landscape. Increasingly, predictive analytics are being used to detect the advanced threats and wider statistical and mathematic skills are becoming essential.”

However, Forrester principal analyst Andrew Rose told SCMagazineUK.com that he is encouraged by the number of students choosing technology courses, and predicted that it may be some years yet before the industry reaps the benefits.

"It's encouraging to see an increase in students choosing technology and computing as a study path, unfortunately the figures are still relatively low,” said Rose. “In addition, the uptick will take several years before it has any impact on the staffing problems that many firms are facing.”

But Rose continued that, with technology so prevalent in everyday life, younger workers may swerve security opportunities for the chance to be entrepreneurs.

“The security breaches which so many firms fear do not seem to be such a draw, despite the career opportunities which exist. Like every technology revolution, functionality is paramount and control tends to run behind, and I expect that would be reflected in the students' attitudes.”

In related news, a recent report from iCrunchdata found that the number of data privacy jobs posted online had shot up 31 percent in three months, a legacy perhaps of the topical NSA and GCHQ surveillance issues.

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