United States: Skills Gap Strongly Impacting Cybersecurity Across All Sectors

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The future demands for cyber security professionals will only increase over the coming years. The United States is not only experiencing a skills shortage in the field of cyber security but a skills gap that continues to widen each year. In a recent survey of IT managers and personnel in the field of cyber security, 77% of respondents said they had experienced an increase in attacks in 2014. While 82% of the organizations surveyed said they expected an attack during 2015. Meanwhile, less than half of the respondents believed that their current cybersecurity teams had the skills and awareness to detect and effectively respond to complex incidents.

The technology sector is facing something much more serious than a short-term skills shortage. The widening IT skills gap, felt across many industries, is due in part to changes in technology continuing to advance more quickly than technology education. Among the most difficult jobs to fill are those which require experience in analytics, mobile app development and change management. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) trying to respond to the tech demands of business today are hard pressed to recruit talent with the skills needed to fulfill their job requirements.

With over 50% of CIOs and other IT executives facing skilled talent gap problems, according to a recent survey, many CIOs are sourcing talent in more creative ways than they have in the past. Offshore talent sourcing has become a means of resolving the growing talent gap in the U.S., instead of simply being a factor in labor arbitrage. Some companies have opened satellite locations in cities known to be better sources of IT talent such as Seattle, Washington and Denver, Colorado; while more companies are taking advantage of modern telecommuting capabilities and employing full-time remote workers both onshore and offshore. Finally for a small percentage of companies, filling the IT skills gap has meant hiring workers under the controversial H-1B visa program, which allows companies to hire non-immigrant foreign nationals for specific jobs. For 2016, the cap for this practice is set at 65,000.

A talent shortage is also affecting the CIOs and other IT executives who manage and oversee IT operations in both the private and government sectors. More than half of the CIOs surveyed in a recent study reported stalls in compensation with no raises in the past year while 3% reported accepting a pay cut in the same job role. Nearly 50% of the individuals polled in this same study reported plans to leave their current post within the next two years. Finally, 22% of respondents claimed to be actively seeking employment elsewhere. With many of the more highly skilled IT professionals willing to consider engagements outside of their current positions, retaining these management and executive level employees may prove more costly for employers with regards to compensation and incentives.

While demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow twelve times faster than the overall job market, it is also growing at three times the rate of the demand for general IT talent. This in turn significantly increases the time to fill these roles. However, skilled IT professionals are more likely to accept jobs in the private sector than federal government jobs that offer lower salaries and fewer incentives. Most employers will likely seek to mitigate the IT talent gap (especially with regards to cyber security) by using internal promotions and education to train, to elevate and retain existing employees.