Early introduction to cybersecurity required to curb talent shortage in Australia

The talent shortage in cybersecurity is a real issue Australia needs to address now and into the future.
Start building talent pool early in cyber security

Australia’s cybersecurity talent shortage is becoming a pressing issue, with some experts suggesting that Australia doesn't have enough specialist expertise to keep it secure. In fact, research suggests that this year there will be 3.5 million vacant cybersecurity jobs globally – posing a serious threat to businesses and citizens.

As global reliance on technology continues to increase exponentially, so too do the risks posed by cybercriminals. This makes the talent shortage in cyber a real issue Australia needs to address now and into the future.

Generations Z and Alpha are arguably the most tech-savvy of any generation before them, bringing about a more cyber-conscious group who understand and appreciate technology on a far deeper level.

With many also seeking a job in which they can use technology to make a difference, there’s a real opportunity to bring cybersecurity into classrooms as early as possible to meet the skills gap challenge head-on. One way we can do this is to build cybersecurity into Australia’s education curriculum which begs the question – how can this be done?

Learn lessons from programming
Programming courses have set an excellent precedent in how cybersecurity courses can effectively engage students. Many programming courses have been designed in a fun and interactive manner. In the same vein, cybersecurity-related modules should be developed to spark students’ interest early in the classroom. Through these courses, students can gain a higher level of confidence, broaden their skill-sets, and internalise career aspirations in cybersecurity.

It’s important that these cybersecurity concepts are introduced early, as this can help with career path decision making – if children know and understand cyber is an option, they’re more likely to be interested in a career in the industry down the line. Perhaps the greater advantage is that children can then approach everything with cybersecurity at the crux of innovation rather than as an afterthought.

Tapping the skills of cybersecurity professionals as teachers and mentors
While the value of teaching cybersecurity skills to students is clear enough, the logistics of bringing this training into the classroom still provides additional challenges. Early cyber education relies on cyber-literate teachers who are willing and able to mentor students. However, the majority of teacher education programs haven’t evolved to give teachers the skills to educate students on cybersecurity.

The opportunity here is for existing cybersecurity professionals to offer their knowledge and mentor the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. We’ve seen some great examples of this already, such as the Schools Cyber Security Challenges Program, which brings together experts from a range of organisations to provide resources that support the teaching of cybersecurity concepts. By collaborating with cybersecurity experts, educators can bring a new level of detail to students and offer real-world advice and insights into the industry to encourage interest.

Capitalise on our new remote environment
The shift to remote work and learning has exposed us all to a new range of technology and has highlighted the importance of security. An ever-expanding attack surface means we need to introduce more diverse thinkers to understand how and where a cybercriminal will attack. We should be taking advantage of this exposure to new technologies to introduce more diversity into the field to ensure there’s a broad range of thinkers in the industry. Cybersecurity education should be accessible to all students, actively encouraging anyone from various backgrounds to pursue careers in the field.

Every gap and assumption about how a system is designed or what users will try to do with it are the very cracks cybercriminals will leverage. If everyone on a security team thinks the same way, you’ve already lost the battle with cyberattackers. Diversity is key to unlocking the full potential of any team. Only through increased inclusion and diversity can the cybersecurity industry achieve greater creativity and innovation to develop new solutions to tackle the key challenges we face.

Preparing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals
As technology becomes more advanced, so too do the cybercriminals who seek to disrupt our lives and businesses. And as we continue to incorporate technology into more elements of our lives, it’s critical that we teach students cybersecurity skills to prepare for the future and close the looming talent gap on the horizon.

Generations Z and Alpha are primed to play a pivotal role in the development of our security ecosystem, however, it’s up to us to be encouraging this interest as early as possible.