'Cybersecurity' term might be scaring off young talent

While 18- to 26-year-olds are showing interest in cybersecurity, there’s a disconnect in the language around the field, skills and opportunities.
By Tom Sullivan
03:25 PM
young talent in cybersecurity

Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, spoke at the HIMSS Security Forum in Boston on Wednesday.

BOSTON — When the National Cyber Security Alliance asked 18- to 26-year-olds what skills they are looking for in a career, researchers uncovered a list that would, if framed properly, forge cybersecurity professionals.

Fifty-six percent, in fact, listed problem solving as the top skill, followed closely by communication at 54 percent, data analysis at 42 percent and programming at 28 percent, Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance said here at the Healthcare Security Forum on Wednesday.

“I think these are the skills we’re looking for. If problem-solving is not a cyber discipline, I don’t know what is,” Kaiser said. “I think we’re scaring people off quite frankly.”

[Also: As hackers become more destructive, security needs an all-hands approach]

Another skill hiring hospitals look for in candidates is skepticism, said Bryan Fiekers, Senior Director of Research Services at HIMSS Analytics.

“Hospitals are looking for dedicated, collaborative and skeptical individuals,” Fiekers said. “It’s required to be a skeptic as it relates to security.”

It’s no secret that hospitals and other organizations are struggling to find and hire young cybersecurity talent and that staffing shortage appears to be getting wider — but at the same time, young people entering the workforce are seeking the same skills that hospitals are looking for.

On a broad scale, healthcare and other industries need to foster more educational programs, cyber challenges, internships, certifications and many of the same resources that exist in other fields.

Hospitals, in the meantime, can benefit from ideas as simple as changing the language they use when describing the field to appeal more to young people who have not been exposed to cybersecurity, despite being digital natives.

The National Cyber Security Alliance, in fact, found that only 40 percent of men and 28 percent of women were approached by a teacher about the potential for a career in cybersecurity.

“We need to start talking about protecting the internet and not the all encompassing unformed cybersecurity,” Kaiser said. “Young people value the connected world enormously. It’s like asking if they want to protect their community when you ask about protecting the internet.”  

And healthcare fares well among those 18- to 26-year-olds the National Cyber Security Alliance asked which type of organizations they would like to protect. Forty-one percent picked healthcare, which followed tech companies and banks but outpaces government, energy and military.

“Security is a cultural phenomenon in healthcare organizations,” Fiekers said. “Part of the culture needs to shift and I think that has begun.”

Twitter: SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com

 Read our coverage of HIMSS Healthcare Security Forum in Boston.
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