As many as 84% of students in the UK are not interested in a career in cyber security, a figure that does not bode well for the UK that is staring at millions of unfulfilled cyber security jobs amid the alarming proliferation of IoT devices and adoption of cloud solutions by enterprises.
Research by SANS Institute found that only 9% of UK students are ‘very aware’ of career opportunities in cyber security, suggesting that a lack of understanding about cyber security or what it involves could be holding back students from pursuing careers in the field.
Even though 82% of students in the UK have heard about cyber security, the lack of real awareness about the field also suggests that the government needs to do a lot more to spread awareness in order to plug the critical cyber security skills gap in future.
According to SANS Institute, a whopping 81% of students in the EMEA region are keen to learn more about cyber security as part of their school curriculum or as an extra-curricular activity. At present, of all students who are interested in pursuing STEM careers, only 49% may choose cyber security as their subject, compared to 61% who want to pursue creating apps/software, and 52% who are interested in IT system design.
"With pressure on organisations to find skilled cyber security professionals and the uncertainty of Brexit exacerbating the issue, it’s now more important than ever for the UK to develop home-grown cyber talent, rather than relying on other nations to provide that expertise," said James Lyne, Head of Research and Development, SANS Institute.
"The outlook is more positive however, as there is now wider industry acknowledgement of the importance of engaging the younger generation in cyber security, to help plug the skills gap. Programmes such as Cyber Discovery, being delivered by SANS for the UK Government as part of its Cyber First initiative, are beginning to help address this lack of engagement," he added.
Lack of awareness behind the lack of interest in cyber security
The lack of interest of students towards cyber security careers is quite similar in the United States. A survey carried out by ProtectWise in the U.S. last year revealed that only 9% of youngsters were interested in cyber security, even though a vast majority of them were looking at computer-related careers such as in video game development, engineering, computer sciences/software development, and scientific research.
According to the survey, there are several reasons why a majority of today's youth are not interested in cyber security careers, and lack of awareness has turned out to the principle factor behind such lack of interest.
For instance, 69 percent of those surveyed said that they had never taken a class in school that focused on cyber security, and 65 percent said that their schools never offered courses on cyber security.
At the same time, 37 percent of youngsters said they didn't know enough about the cyber security field, 28 percent didnt believe they had the required technical ability, 21 percent said they didn't have the required education and 15 percent said they didn't have the required number of certifications to become cyber security professionals.
"A necessary second step would be to increase the cybersecurity learning opportunities available to millennials and post-millennials. This lack of awareness and opportunity shortage is directly feeding the pending and future skills shortage. As a result, only nine percent of respondents initially indicated that cybersecurity is a career they are interested in pursuing at some point in their lives," noted ProtectWise.
It added that such concerns of youngsters could be addressed by providing earlier exposure to information security learning opportunities. Less than a third of those surveyed said they were not interested in cyber security careers, which indicates that the opportunity to train youngsters is quite high.