Young people – particularly women – aren’t hearing about cybersecurity jobs

The more cyberthreats spiral, the more cybersecurity pros we need to fend them off.

But a new study shows that there are a number of blockages keeping the talent pipeline from being filled. For one, young adults aren’t aware of job opportunities, though they’re generally interested.

What’s more, schools aren’t preparing students for the jobs, and there’s even a growing gap within the gap, as fewer young women are informed about potential jobs or express interest in the field.

For the study, Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance commissioned a survey of 3871 people aged 18-26 from 12 countries.

The findings were published on Monday in a report titled Securing Our Future: Closing the Cyber Talent Gap.

Some of the key takeaways:

  • Globally, 62% say that no teacher, guidance counselor or supervisory adult ever mentioned the career field to them. Young people in the Middle East are better off than the rest of the world: only 40% of them hadn’t been told of the career, compared with 70% in Europe.
  • The situation is worse for women than for men: globally, 9% more young women than men reported that no high school or secondary teacher or counselor had discussed cybersecurity careers as an option with them. The spread was particularly wide in the US, where 55% of men vs. 69% of women hadn’t had the subject broached, and in Europe, where 66% of men vs. 73% of women hadn’t been approached about the career.
  • Globally, 33% of men and 24% of women are more likely to consider cybersecurity careers than they were a year ago. The gap is wider in the US: 40% of men and only 23% of women are more likely now to choose a career that entails making the internet safer and more secure.

The study also uncovered an overconfidence among young adults when it comes to their ability to stay safe online.

  • Most – 65% – reported feeling that they have the ability to stay safe online, despite their reported lack of education, awareness and engagement of cybersecurity as a career.
  • As far as lack of education goes, a majority of young adults – 58% – said they hadn’t been taught how to stay safe online in the classroom or were unsure whether their lessons actually provided that knowledge.
  • Some had families who took the time to have the “stay safe online” discussion, some did not: 31% had their first cyber chat with a parent or relative, while 30% had it with “nobody.”
  • As far as awareness goes, 67% said they hadn’t heard about a cyber attack in the last year, and 84% said they hadn’t read any articles about it in the past month.
  • Being victimized by cybercrime isn’t fazing them: Of the young adults who’d experienced credit card fraud, identity theft, malware infections on devices or other online violations within the last year, nearly half – 44% – said they didn’t change their behavior as a response.

For a world increasingly awash in data breaches and other digital attacks, the survey shows that there are a lot of conversations not taking place.

For one thing, security pros aren’t talking to young people about their jobs, and it’s leaving them with preconceived notions about the jobs being stressful (this downside was reported by 21% of respondents) and boring (18%).

They also think cybersecurity professionals are underpaid (15%) and that fighting inevitable cyber attacks is futile (21%).

Teachers, guidance counselors, parents, cyber professionals: are you talking to kids about the exciting, ever-changing, well-paying field of cybersecurity?

If so, who are you talking to? Who are you not talking to, and why?

If you’re not talking at all, why does the cat have your tongue?

Image of padlock on keyboard courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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