The need for skilled workers in the cybersecurity industry is and has been at a critical level for a decade. And it isn’t going away anytime soon. It is the single greatest opportunity for women and minorities to enter into the technology job market, according to technology mentors and educators.

The US Department of Commerce estimates 465,000 open positions in the US as of May 2021. Year-on-year growth to 2029 will be 35 percent. The Herjavec Group’s latest Annual Cyber Security Jobs report identified 3.5 million open jobs worldwide.

There is a general confusion about what candidates should study, where to get that training, and what jobs to go for. That wasn’t well addressed at the WomenTech Global Conference ( #WTGC) this week. One common theme that did arise was the lack of confidence within minorities and women. One speaker, Jyotsna Manikantan, a lead project manager at ADP, said that women job-seekers need to “believe in themselves, recruit their own managers and mentors.” Her advice mirrored that of Revital Librand, head of marketing at cybersecurity company odix, that you can hear on Crucial Tech.

Manikantan encouraged attendees to take advantage of all the free training available on the internet including Coursera, Linkedin Learning and BrightTALK. We talked to several attendees who also recommended AWS training and certification courses.

The fact that there are so many opportunities for training is, in itself, daunting. Cyber Protection Magazine has been monitoring social media discussion groups covering entering the cybersecurity job market and the common question is “what is the best direction to go in?” The responses are always unsatisfactory because they are as unfocused as the questioner. It seems that the best advice is from the caterpillar in Alice Through the Looking Glass. “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” The offerings at the AWS site include several introductory courses to help narrow one’s focus. Once a direction is chosen, certification is a few weeks away, all of it free.

Meanwhile, universities are promoting master’s degree programs in cybersecurity at relatively enormous costs in time and money. While workers who want a management track might need a degree, it is not necessary to start. Good-paying, entry-level jobs are available with no more than a high-school education. Once you get that job, most companies and government agencies have generous tuition assistance programs to get the degree.

There is a real problem in the recruiting area, however. One anonymous cybersecurity executive in a private Linkedin chat expressed frustration by who human resources sent as candidates. When we asked, “How much time have you put into training HR in what you are looking for?” he admitted, “None at all. I see your point.”

The problem of filling these crucial positions is not going away anytime soon, but the industry needs to consider these actions to start resolving the lack of workers.

1. HR personnel need to understand requirements. They either need to press hiring managers to give more detail, or those managers have to take the time to figure out what they actually need.

2. C-level executives need to hire security managers with experience in real cyber disasters. Only then will the companies know what is really needed. Failure is a valuable experience in this nascent industry.

3. Potential workers just need to step into the void and pick a direction. Cybersecurity careers are like trailblazing into an uncertain frontier. You won’t know where you are going until you get there.

4. Women and minorities are already finding career success in the field because there is no one above them to create career barriers. It’s time to go for it and dominate the field

Lou Covey is the US Editor for Cyberprotection Magazine. In 50 years as a journalist he covered American politics, education, religious history, women’s fashion, music, marketing technology, renewable energy, semiconductors, avionics. He is currently focused on cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. He published a book on renewable energy policy in 2020 and is writing a second one on technology aptitude. He hosts the Crucial Tech podcast.

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