Mind the Skills Gap: Attracting and Training the Next Generation of Cyber Security Professionals
By Paige Adams, Group CISO, Zurich Insurance Group
By 2019 there will be an estimated shortage of 2 million cyber security experts according to ISACA. Cybersecurity Ventures found that by 2021 that number could grow to 3.5 million.
• At the same time, cyber security risks are growing exponentially and firms around the world are struggling to understand how best to protect themselves from major breaches.
• To ensure that the talent pool is up to the challenge, the industry must generate new interest in cyber security careers among students planning for their future—at the beginning of their careers and those looking to make moves into new career tracks.
That is why Zurich recently launched a cyber security apprenticeship program that trains promising individuals and builds the foundations for a cyber-secure future.
As a company with long standing European roots, we believe apprenticeships are a vital and often underused tool to attract and train fresh talent. Our European offices have long used apprenticeship programs to develop its workforce, and in 2017 after seeing its benefits, we decided to implement the Zurich apprenticeship program that was developed at our Swiss headquarters to provide training in core insurance disciplines.
Fast forward to the present. You only need to turn on the news or read the latest headlines to know that businesses are facing a constant battle when it comes to data privacy and cyber security. Breaches, ransomware and scams are commonplace and are potentially incredibly damaging not only to a business’s bottom line but reputation. While we often hear about cyber incidents after they happen, cyber security professionals are constantly working behind the scene to keep personal and commercial data and information safe.
As more and more businesses make mass migrations toward cloud-based information storage and processing platforms, as they proliferate their use IOT technology and capabilities, and as they increase their dependence on data-rich caches needed to inform algorithms and decision-making, the risks and opportunity for cyber criminals to harass, infiltrate, and even highjack IT systems will only increase. Yet, it remains unclear whether the aggregate of our business economy is prepared to face the challenge of the growing risk of cybercrime. The Global Risk Report 2018 found that attacks against businesses have almost doubled in five years and that the financial impact is increasing greatly. Partially because of this, cyber-attacks and massive data fraud both appear within the top five global risks by likelihood.
The digital arena is volatile and fast moving, making it challenging to constantly be aware of and creating cutting edge cyber insurance solutions for customers battling a myriad of digital attackers on a daily basis. It requires specialists who are on top of current and emerging security challenges and mitigation strategies. This is why we launched a new apprenticeship program that sees successful apprentices qualify for CompTIA Cybersecurity certification and a Certificate of Completion for the Registered Apprenticeship program.
Like its other apprenticeships, Zurich’s cybersecurity apprenticeship is a two-year program where apprentices work as full-time employees at Zurich while attending classes at Harper College. As employees, Zurich pays each apprentice a full time salary with benefits and covers their Harper College tuition. Upon completion of the program, each apprentice will have a full-time cyber security position at Zurich and be free of college loan debt for their Associates Degree. Each apprentice is required to make a two-year commitment to working at Zurich beyond which they are free to explore positions with other companies.
Within the Cyber Security Apprentice Program, trainees are gaining a well-rounded and practical education by rotating through six different rotations—threat defense, incident response, application security, vulnerability management, and threat intelligence.
This program couldn’t come at a more important time. The requirements for cyber security has significantly outpaced anyone's ability to marshal sufficient talent needed to effectively combat this growing threat. Despite a widely recognized need for more cyber professionals, there remains an inadequate supply of them across the country, creating an ever-widening skills gap across the country. This growing skills gap in cybersecurity compound the risks businesses already face.
We feel this is an innovative approach to recruit talent to help with the skills gap and challenges in this space. Cybersecurity talent is scarce and hard to come by. Cybersecurity apprenticeships can help develop talent to fill full-time Cyber positions.
Zurich's Insurance Apprenticeship Program was the first to be certified by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2016 and we participate in the department’s Apprenticeship USA initiative, which is dedicated to developing a new generation of workers to help the U.S. succeed in the 21st century economy. Perhaps no other apprenticeship focus area will better train the newest members of the US work force than cybersecurity as it is—no doubt—playing an increasingly important role in our economy.