Bridge the cyber skills gap with Fortinet's NSE training programs Bridge the cyber skills gap with Fortinet's NSE training programs Photo: Fortinet

Cybersecurity is a high-growth technology area, and security skills are in demand. A poll by ISC(2), the world’s largest nonprofit membership association of certified cybersecurity professionals, found that 81% of respondents’ organizations view security as an essential function as employees are working remotely due to the coronavirus. 

At the same time, there is a need to fill both technical and non-technical roles in this industry. As the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to rise, so does the need to attract a broader, more diverse workforce into the field. Let’s take a closer look at the factors affecting the current workforce shortfall and how the industry can help solve its own problem.

The skills gap persists

Pre-2020, there was already a significant shortage of cybersecurity talent – to the tune of more than 4 million skilled professionals, according to some estimates. And ISC(2)’s  2019 Cybersecurity Workforce Study estimated the need for the cybersecurity workforce to increase by 145% to meet demand.

In a rare bit of good news, the organization’s 2020 report showed a year-over-year reduction in the workforce gap, partly due to an increase in the number of people entering the field. 700,000 professionals joined the cybersecurity workforce, reducing the global workforce shortage to 3.12 million. Some progress has been made, but much more needs to be done, and faster, because demand doesn’t wait for the gap to get filled.

Case in point: the pandemic has further boosted the industry’s demand, in part because of the enhanced security concerns brought on by remote work. Yet, it’s still difficult to find and keep qualified professionals. A Fortinet study found that 68% of organizations struggle to recruit, hire and retain cybersecurity talent. 

Opportunity abounds

There’s a role for everyone in cybersecurity. There are many career options and numerous pathways to enter the cybersecurity career field, regardless of background and experience. And given the economic downturn, this is a field that’s actively growing and in need of talented professionals. For those now in need of a new job, including recent graduates, cybersecurity is an area that should be actively considered. 

Cybersecurity also offers a lot of potential for veterans who transitioning into the civilian workforce. Our modern military is highly technical, and a number of these men and women have been trained to use some of the most sophisticated technologies running on some of the most highly targeted networks in the world. Consequently, much of their hands-on, situational experience translates to the cybersecurity battleground. Intelligence gathering, maintaining security and respect for chain of command are required, transferrable skills for cybersecurity. And many of these individuals also have security clearances, which are not only expensive for private organizations to obtain and maintain but can also take up to 18 months to complete. 

In the same vein, students today are digital natives – already familiar with issues regarding technology and privacy and on the leading edge of driving the changes fueling our transition to a digital economy. With proper training, students can provide unique insight into the minds of today's threat actors – and the tools they use – that would not occur to many established security professionals. 

Overall, job candidates are much more attractive if they already have training. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, the training time required for companies to close a workforce skills gap increased tenfold between 2014 and 2018, from three to 36 days. Because an organization doesn’t have to worry about bringing employees up to speed when they have taken training, they will likely favor candidates who already demonstrate technical proficiency.

Coming together to provide the right programs

There are many resources from private and public-sector organizations that students, veterans and job seekers can take advantage of.  Academic programs are just one example, but many businesses are finding that the toughest challenges they face today don’t require a traditional degree, including cybersecurity expertise. There’s a critical need to make sure everyone is gaining meaningful skills that align to industry needs. 

To help provide these skills and close the gap, Fortinet and IBM are collaborating to provide resources through SkillsBuild, IBM’s digital platform with a course track focused on cybersecurity that uses Fortinet’s award-winning training.

SkillsBuild  provides its nonprofit and NGO partners – including VetJobs and the USO – free access to Fortinet’s Network Security Expert (NSE) Training Institute, to help increase representation of women, minorities, veterans and other untapped populations in the cyber workforce. Learners from these partner organizations also includes refugees, asylum seekers, career changers and military spouses. Through SkillsBuild, these individuals receive a career fit assessment, training, personalized coaching and the experiential learning they need to enter or re-enter the workforce. The program, which is an initiative from IBM’s Corporate Social Responsibility group, also prepares learners for a path toward receiving technology-focused certifications, which is another way to validate their skills as certifications are highly valued by employees. In fact, a recent Fortinet study found that 82% of organizations prefer to hire candidates with certifications. Prospective employers also value certifications that demonstrate prior experience. To that end, those new to cybersecurity can apply for experiential opportunities though programs such as IBM’s 12-month cybersecurity apprenticeship.

Through this partnership, Fortinet and IBM are working to develop a highly skilled and diverse, inclusive cyber workforce. Fortinet and IBM are committed to creating new cybersecurity career pathways by training traditionally untapped candidates and connecting learners to employers.

Better together

In this era of remote work and heightened network threat, cybersecurity professionals have become essential workers. Yet they’re hard to find. Even with a surge of new workers since last year, the skills gap is wide and continuing to grow. That’s why the industry must find new, untapped sources for their training and recruiting efforts. 

Organizations from the private, public and educational sectors are joining forces to not just catch up but overcome the long-standing cyberskills gap. Fortinet and IBM form one such alliance, working together to make it easier for anyone to start a career in cybersecurity, regardless of their background, previous access to education or life experiences. Just as every employee has a role to play in keeping their employer’s network safe, every organization has a role to play in creating new employment opportunities that make the world’s networks safer.

Find out more about Fortinet’s NSE Training Institute programs, including the Certification Program, Security Academy Program and Veterans Program, which provide critical cybersecurity training and education to help solve the cyber skills gap and prepare the cybersecurity workforce of tomorrow.