How to Fix Cybersecurity and Network Engineering Skills Gap – Spiceworks News and Insights

A hacker strikes every 39 seconds on average in America, targeting business infrastructures, customers, and private citizens. What’s at risk? Almost anything that functions on a digital framework—medical records, bank transactions, and social security numbers —can be compromised or stolen.

There is a tangible need for IT engineers and cybersecurity analysts and yet 3.5 million cyber jobs were still unfilled at the end of 2021—enough to fill 50 NFL stadiums. Information Technology is the second fastest-growing career field in 2022 and by the end of the decade, it’s expected to grow by 22 percent, with more than 300,000 jobs still unfilled in the U.S. This massive vacancy indicates the need for more trained talent in this space.

More than 50 billion devices are logged on to the internet and are more connected each day. That extremely large attack surface presents a growing problem. America’s networks are more vulnerable than ever before, but its guardians are becoming scarce.

The Threat

Digital attacks are a problem for companies of all sizes, but small businesses are disproportionately affected. More than half of all small businesses will experience a data breach; of those targeted, 60 percent will close their doors within six months. Those that survive will spend an average of $200,000 repairing the damages. 

These varied attacks also trickle down to negatively impact everyday Americans, with one in three affected by cyber breaches each year. 

Stolen passwords or phishing emails may seem like minor inconveniences, but their implications can be grave. Through data breaches, cybercriminals can open and use new credit cards under their victim’s name, sell social security or credit card numbers on the dark web or even hijack a victim’s airline miles.

America’s networks need digital saviors—skilled IT workers who can support digital networks as they grow and evolve, build cybersecurity components that ensure monitored and proactive threat management, and design defenses against the rapidly changing world of cybercrime—but many of those aspiring cyber professionals are missing a crucial component: training. 

The Glaring Skills Gap

By 2025, it’s expected that 85 million people will experience job disruption or displacement due to digitization. At the same time, more than 97 million jobs that require new skills will be created, including roles in information technology, AI, machine learning, and data science.

As the need for skilled cyber professionals increases exponentially, investors are putting their money where their mouth is. In fact, worldwide IT spending is projected to total $4.5 trillion in 2022. 

Funding these workers, however, also means providing a solution to the significant skills gap that many IT professionals currently face. 

Enter EdTech.

Combining education with technology to boost training and help students upskill quickly while maintaining the certifications and industry standards necessary for success in their fields, EdTech can serve as a powerful mechanism for those seeking to pivot within the workplace or for employers who want to offer team members an accessible way to enhance their knowledge. 

On-the-Job Training 

If you’re already employed but want to level up your skillset, or if you have a talented tech team in place but want to offer additional educational opportunities to fulfill a specific need within your company, on-the-job training could offer the right mix of work and skill advancement. This type of training might include mentor relationships or job shadowing, cross-training between coworkers, or developing a robust internship program. 

On-the-job training is also a great way to attract up-and-coming talent or break into a field with little experience. Simplify finding these opportunities through a filtered search on job sites like Indeed or LinkedIn. Job hunters with management experience might find the search engine Ladders helpful, while recent college graduates may prefer the platform Scouted.

For a more targeted approach, comb through Training magazine’s Training Top 100 List, which recognizes organizations that provide highly sought-after employee training and development. 

Pro: Build your resumé while you learn

Con: Employee trainers may be ineffective

Paid Training

Apprenticeship or residency may be a wise choice if looking to be skilled in a niche tech role. Apprentices are paid to learn and gain experience in a specific trade through a program that typically lasts one to six years and is often registered with a state or federal agency. 

Explore apprenticeship.gov to discover vetted paid training opportunities or try CareerOneStop, where you can search by occupation, school, or program. The U.S. Department of Labor also offers Job Corps, a residential job training program for low-income applicants ages 16-24 that provides taxpayer-funded room and board, free health care, and a living allowance. Job Corps students gain technical training in fields like IT and receive job placement assistance at the end of the program.

Pro: Hands-on learning experience without student debt

Con: Competitive application process

Online Skills Training

The core of a cybersecurity professional’s skillset begins with a network engineering foundation, learning to design and implement network configurations, as well as troubleshooting, improving, and monitoring network activity. Online learning can increase job readiness or accelerate training by condensing training to months instead of years.

Access world-class online learning programs to find the right program for your interests and career goals, or take your skills to the next level with real-world case studies and military training. 

Pro: Flexible, fast-track learning

Con: Requires self-discipline and motivation

Choosing the Right Creative Approach

Selecting the right training option for you or your company means considering your unique needs, goals, and resources and just starting and looking for financial assistance. A government-funded apprenticeship through Job Corps may be your best option. Hoping to level up your income through a new IT role? An online training program from NGT Academy could provide the tools necessary to land your dream cybersecurity and network engineering job. 

The need for network engineering professionals and cybersecurity analysts is high, and the demand within the workforce is only increasing. To fill this critical shortage and help close the skills gap for workers eager to enter the IT industry requires the willingness to take a creative approach to educate and equip these essential workers.

In part two of this series, we’ll examine how these nontraditional education methods compare to conventional four-year college degree programs.

How do you think the next generation of IT specialists can protect their networks? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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