Cybersecurity Talent Shortages Drive New Business Models

Image of the IBM logo on a computer
IBM Introduces new initiatives to draw in cybersecurity talent.

In the past few years, we became aware that the market has a big cybersecurity talent gap. More positions are opening, and not enough experts are available to fill those positions. This cybersecurity talent shortage is driving new business models where companies target a wider range of people, providing them with more direct education.

At the moment, companies like IBM are focusing on 3 underrepresented population categories:

  1. Veterans
  2. Rural population
  3. Underprivileged population

Attracting talent from these pools will help bridge the talent shortage in companies. Additionally, the cybersecurity field will gain new perspectives from those who historically have not had equal access to high-end IT jobs.

This is a follow-up to the pledge IBM CEO Arvind Krisha made last year with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Krisha promised to create Cybersecurity Leadership Centers in 20 locations, including 7 HBCU colleges.

Other companies such as Deloitte will follow suit, mirroring Google by creating certificates for people who do not have the funds to attend traditional colleges.

Cybersecurity Salaries Are Rising with the Market

The market is rapidly expanding, so the demand for cybersecurity talent is also rising in public agencies and private businesses. This, in turn, has significantly pushed the average salary in the sector. Additionally, the demand for analysts in informational security, cybersecurity, and broader systems affecting these branches is also growing steadily.

According to the President of the Southern University System, Dr. Ray Belton, “the constant growth of the industry in all areas needs a well-prepared workforce.” His institution is one of the IBM Project Partners.

Companies that cannot provide in-house training need to compete for new and existing cybersecurity talent. Aside from offering competitive wages, most companies are also allowing remote work for their specialists abroad.

For salaried positions, the base salary for IT Security Specialists averages over $70k annually. For cybersecurity specialists, the average is over $100k and goes up to over $150k, especially for federal agencies.

Still, experts ready to take on more risk and work can charge over $150 per hour. They might also have an easy time finding over 60 billable hours per week.

We will have to see if this rise in pay will attract new cybersecurity talent. Yet, only a quantum leap in technology can significantly change the current situation.

Image of student graduates celebrating in a university courtyard
New cybersecurity talent graduates can expect base salaries ~40% over average.

IBM Announcing Education Initiatives

On May 10th, IBM announced new educational initiatives that include the following 3 associations:

  1. US Department of Veteran Affairs
  2. HBCUs
  3. Danish Specialisterne Foundation (provides education to people with Autism)

These initiatives will provide STEM job training at no cost for persons connected to these institutions. All three have prominent members in the industry. The only major hurdle facing them is the generally high tuition in IT and security universities. 

1. US Department of Veteran Affairs

IBM will produce a customized learning plan for veterans with the VET TEC consortium. Since a quarter of a million service members become veterans every year, IBM will likely find good cybersecurity talent within that group.

2. HBCUs

HBCUs have already proven to be a good recruitment point for cybersecurity specialists and other IT sector positions. Colleges, like N.C A&T, have already produced several graduating classes of proficient future specialists.

The curricula for these colleges will be customized for each place, focusing on cybersecurity and cloud-based resources.

3. Danish Specialisterne Foundation

The Specialisterne Foundation might be the most interesting move from the whole announcement. Many also argue that IBM was not just looking for good press when associating with this organization.

According to research done by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, children with ASD correlate with parents with demanding IT positions. That means these kids would also have an easier time entering those fields.

Subsequently, people with autism may find employment in one of the most lucrative fields.

Image of a woman explaining code to a man
New types of education will source cybersecurity talent from underprivileged communities.

The Age of Certificates

Companies like Google, Apple, and IBM provide their own certification without a college degree. Consequently, these new higher education models may push back traditional institutions, at least when it comes to tech. This is especially the case if we consider that the tuition for 4-year colleges in the United States has risen 179.2% over the last two decades.

Yet, critics point out a downside to the process. These certificates may have low applicability to other positions. Consequently, a certificate from Google may not be enough to land a position at Apple and vice versa.

As these certificates become standardized, we should consider that companies may strive to keep the talent they have produced. That will also decrease the growth opportunities for cybersecurity talent.

New Focus on Underrepresented Communities

Tech giants aim to protect their growing demand for cybersecurity talent. Yet, even if this move only fills the demand by a fraction, the focus on marginalized and underrepresented communities will be a boon for the families within these marginalized groups.

All the communities included in the IBM education initiative have diminished chances for tertiary education, especially requalification into STEM fields.

Circumventing high tuition costs and creating an outreach will help companies solve their cybersecurity talent shortage. The initiative will also help relieve much wider social problems.

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