Cybersecurity short on skilled workers

Business

Cybersecurity short on skilled workers

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

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“THE red-hot growth sector of cybersecurity has created more than a million new jobs. The bad news: half of these critical cyber jobs are going unfilled due to a shortage of skilled workers.” That's the key finding in a report from Emsi, the labour analytics experts in the US. It is a revelation very relevant to the Caribbean as we move towards creating digital societies.

The Emsi report also points to the urgent need to assess current and projected cybersecurity specialists. “... [There are] more than 1 million new jobs, [an] ever-intensifying demand. For every 100 job openings in the cybersecurity field, there are only 48 qualified applicants,” says the report.

If the Caribbean is to make the envisaged conversion, a tremendous revolution in education is required. The key stakeholders must focus on the implementation of a dynamic plan if we are to achieve the key goals. A suggestion, Emsi says, is that “companies in need of cybersecurity talent should re-skill existing employees rather than recruit outside their walls for talent that is already extremely hard to get”.

The Emsi findings also highlight the role of employers who “should invest time and money... to acquire cybersecurity microcredentials”. The report also identifies roles for colleges, universities and other training organisations who “can focus on the key skills needed at the local or regional level and help upskill the many working adults who might be looking for new employment, plus a generation of new grads hungry for good opportunity in a disrupted labour market”.

The Emsi report is instructive for Caricom member states which, the report says, have a major role to play “in addressing the crisis as they broker between local businesses and higher education to fill the talent gap.” The power of collaboration among these stakeholders is the key to solving the cyber talent gap, Emsi says. “Working together, employers, workforce development organisations and higher ed institutions can reduce the cost of cybersecurity certifications,” says the report.

Our regional educational systems, forced into retooling in the wake of COVID-19, have a golden opportunity to ensure that curricula reflect the focus on training and developing more workers who are skilled in technology. We can draw on the example of Virginia, which moved to meet the rising demand for a cybersecurity workforce. Nearly 50 of Virginia's colleges and universities established cyber degrees and degrees with a cyber focus. Virginia is also home to 23 NSA/DHS Centres of Academic Excellence (CAE) in cybersecurity.

Technology jobs range from entry level to very highly skilled across IT software, networks, cybersecurity, data management and tech support now accelerated by the digitisation of our economies in the COVID-19 pandemic. While we focus on training and development of future workers, we should not forget those already in the workforce and provide opportunities for them to upgrade their skills and education.

In 2014 Caricom agreed to establish a Single Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Space, followed by the 2017 approval by the Heads of Government of the Vision and Roadmap for the Caricom Single ICT space. The overarching objective of the Single ICT Space is to provide the digital layer to underpin the Caribbean Single Market Economy. The most significant outcomes resulting from a Caricom Single ICT Space are ubiquity and consistency of ICT services across the region at affordable prices to citizens. COVID-19 has forced a speeding up of the key objectives which are very relevant to consumers, businesses and governments.

Responses to the pandemic's impact highlighted the urgent need for equitable, affordable access to broadband information and communication technologies, which are secure, ubiquitous and reliable in addition to being able to facilitate the rapid acquisition, processing and dissemination of information. The heightened use of online facilities and the gathering of information and knowledge requires the ability to analyse and disseminate it effectively for citizens' social and economic progress, a goal of the Caricom thrust.

All of this ICT activity requires a whole new set of workers at every level of the technology chain, trained to ensure cybersecurity. Safety is at the heart of executing the mandate, which translates into real jobs and tremendous opportunities to build Caricom's digital economies by enhancing trade, innovation, competitiveness and citizen welfare.

Send feedback to digitallife@jamaicaobserver.com


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