There's no hiding that we're facing a digital skills shortage, but we need to address the implications that the skills gap will have for digital innovation in the future. With the rise of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, it's easy to get caught up in how they'll change the skills we need. But before we get to that, we must look at the foundation of emerging technologies in Cybersecurity. And ensure we have the skills to build and maintain that strong foundation.

When we look at the job market, there are 3.5 million cybersecurity job vacancies worldwide. With nearly one cyberattack every 39 seconds, ensuring we have the skills necessary to protect from ransomware and malignant attacks is more important than ever. But there's still a way to go before we're in that position. 

The Rise of Cybersecurity

The internet is part of our daily lives. The average adult spends six hours and 40 minutes online every single day. From scrolling social feeds to online banking to shopping to emailing, every activity we do online involves sharing sensitive information. For businesses, that means they need to be able to store and exchange information securely or risk considerable fines. It's not just fear of penalty that forces firms to take action; it's now the norm for a company's intangible assets, such as its data, to be worth more than its tangible assets. Intangible assets make up roughly 90% of the assets of all S&P 500 listed companies, making Cybersecurity a powerful way to protect a company's value.   

Securing data isn't a static job, though. It's ever-changing, ever-evolving, and ever more challenging. The risk of a cyber attack is likely to grow by 15% per year over the next three years. The UK Home Office has classified cybercrime as a tier-one risk. Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent and more challenging to detect, which means the skills needed to protect our data and systems are more critical than ever.

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The cyber skills gap across Europe

The need for cybersecurity professionals is on the rise, highlighting the gap in the job market. Demand far outstrips the number of cybersecurity professionals in Europe, and unless that shortage is addressed, the issue will only get worse. In Europe, the gap currently stands at 300,000. The EMEA region has shown the most significant increase in the cyber talent gap, threatening technological advancement.

The executive director of the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) said, "To implement all the current and upcoming EU legal requirements for cyber security, we need more people with certain skills. Without this human capital, we cannot achieve our goal of a high level of Cybersecurity across the EU."

The sector has reached an impasse. With the fast-paced development and innovation, the industry is powering ahead, but innovation will stall without the human resources and specialists to secure those developments. ENISA have reported that without investment in re-skilling and upskilling the workforce gap can't be reduced.

There are two parts to the shortage we need to look at. The first is straight-up skills.

1. Creating a skilled Cybersecurity workforce

The Cybersecurity Higher Education Database reports that the number of cybersecurity graduates has grown 25% over the last two years, but with the current shortfall, the industry could use more. Instead, further investment is the catalyst for re-skilling and upskilling. 

The European Commission declared 2023 the Year of Skills to recognize the need to upskill. As part of the year, ambitious targets were set, such as establishing a workforce of 20 million ICT specialists across Europe. If they were successful in meeting this target, it would go a long way toward filling the cybersecurity skills gap.

It's clear that the European Commission understands the potential pitfalls of a widening cybersecurity skills gap, with Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President, stating, "Cybersecurity is a must-have. To protect our societies, to protect us as citizens, and to protect our economy."

The skills shortage is an issue that extends far beyond our computer screens. 

2. Addressing the gender imbalance in Cybersecurity

The second area is gender diversity within Cybersecurity. Women make up only a quarter of ICT specialists. Without addressing this imbalance, it will prove difficult to reach the number of cybersecurity specialists needed to meet demand and secure the industry's future. 

While this number is growing, it's not fast-paced enough to address the fundamental imbalance or help with the skills gap. If we want to increase the number of skilled experts in the industry, the answer could be to become a more inclusive industry that attracts more women. 

Offering mentoring programs, investing in initiatives such as female-only coding camps, networking groups like "SuperWomen in Tech" and considering supporting women returning from maternity leave can make the industry more attractive to female employees. 


Cybersecurity as the foundation for innovation

Just as Cybersecurity isn't one-time and done, training a cybersecurity professional isn't one-time. Instead, with technologies evolving, cybersecurity experts need to continually upskill in order to stay relevant. 

That requires resources, effort, and, most of all, time. Upskilling isn't a quick task, which is why it's so critical to address Europe's cybersecurity skills gap now rather than wait. There are courses out there that offer certifications in a matter of months, but previous research found that many in the cybersecurity industry estimated it takes between 3 and 5 years to develop fundamental proficiency. 

Plugging the gap

There are examples of successful cybersecurity recruitment initiatives at the EU, national, and company levels. 

As already mentioned, the European Commission's Year of Skills scheme is tackling skills gaps across the region as a whole, highlighting the issue and providing training to upskill in Cybersecurity. 

In April 2023, the European Commission adopted the Communication on a Cybersecurity Skills Academy, an initiative that brings together existing schemes to improve their efficiency and coordination. This joined-up approach aims to bridge the cybersecurity skills gap and boost growth within the EU.

The German Economic Institute has identified its cyber talent gap that could reach 106,000 people by 2026. To address this, Germany has launched two initiatives, MINT-Nachwus and Make it in Germany. The first scheme targets young people to encourage them to take up a career in a STEM subject. While this won't address the gap in the next five years, it's protecting the industry's future. Make it in Germany highlights the opportunities in Germany and the IT sector, encouraging expats to move to the country and help address their skills gap.

Cisco revealed a goal to train 250,000 people in Cybersecurity across the EU by mid-2025. This training program is part of their ambition to upskill 2.6 million people across Europe. This initiative is already running in the Netherlands and Italy and will be launched in subsequent countries later this year. 

IBM is also an example of a successful cybersecurity skills training program. They're committed to building a more equitable society by helping provide education and training to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

For those looking to join the industry, there are ample opportunities out there right now and an eagerness to upskill those with the interest and abilities. Do your research into whether an on-the-job training program or a stand-alone certification is more suitable for your existing skills and knowledge. 

Lastly, when applying for a new cyber security role, discuss potential continual training options with your recruitment specialist.

Looking to a world built on Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity isn't just about IT; it's about how our world operates. Our everyday activities along with our future innovation are rooted in the secure transmission and storage of data, without that our future technological advancements are at risk.

Within the EU, the skills gap is widening, and there is a severe lack of skilled workers. But change is afoot. The EU, countries, and organizations are starting to take steps to address the challenges faced by the cybersecurity industry and investing in the training and resources necessary to upskill a new generation of experts. 

With more funding via the DIGITAL Europe Programme, more work programs are on the horizon to bridge the skills gap. 

The cybersecurity skills gap isn't something that can be changed overnight. It's not something that can be changed in a year. But by taking action now, we can prevent it from widening further and begin to fill some of the 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs worldwide that currently stand vacant.

At Source technology, we source some of the best cyber security talent out there to be placed into tech companies and enterprises.

If you're looking to source cyber security talent, submit your vacancy with us today.

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