Business & Technology

Supporting the UN’s World Youth Skills Day Efforts by Addressing the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

By Barbara Maigret | July 15, 2022

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 69/145 in 2014, declaring every July 15th as World Youth Skills Day. Among the motivations for the General Assembly establishing this day were concerns about the high number of young people worldwide who are neither employed nor being trained for a career. According to one UN report, a staggering 621 million young people aged 15-24 are not engaged in education, employment, or training.

Equipping young people with skills is vital because they are essential to the sustainability of our society. Indeed, the economic development of each country and each company depends on a constantly replenishing pool of trained human resources to remain strong, competitive, and prosperous. At the same time, failure to provide proper training and resources will have ongoing profound implications, not the least of which is lowering the living standards of future generations. As a global society, we must provide younger generations with decent work and career opportunities.

Within the cybersecurity industry, we have a unique opportunity to address the Youth Skills challenge by addressing the significant skills shortage we’re facing. There is currently a jobs gap of over 2.7 million cybersecurity professionals worldwide, impacting companies' ability to compete effectively in today’s digital marketplace. According to Fortinet’s 2022 Cybersecurity Skills Gap report, 80% of organizations have suffered at least one breach they attribute to a lack of cybersecurity skills or awareness.

Overcoming Misperceptions about Careers in Cybersecurity

While filling this gap may seem like an obvious way to help address the larger Youth Skills challenge, we have first to overcome the issue that most young people today don’t consider a career in cybersecurity. Most don’t even know it’s an option. Efforts must be made to increase awareness and/or change the perception of millennials and younger generations about cybersecurity as a career:

  • Cybersecurity professionals enjoy high job satisfaction: The 2021 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study reveals a highly engaged and fulfilled workforce: 77% of Workforce Study respondents reported they are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their jobs, with Gen Z/Millennials experiencing the highest satisfaction rate at 79%.
  • Various pathways to enter cyber: This same study shows that while an IT background remains the single most common route (47% of participants), that is changing. Slightly more than half of cybersecurity professionals got their start outside of IT— 17% transitioned from unrelated career fields, 15% gained access through cybersecurity education, and 15% explored cybersecurity concepts independently. Gen Z and Millennials make up 39% of the current cyber workforce, and their pathways into cybersecurity are more diverse than previous generations. Getting a start outside of IT is more common for younger professionals. Only 38% of younger cyber pros started in IT, compared to 53% for Gen X and 55% for Boomers. Instead, they have higher rates of entry through education and self-learning.
  • Variety of careers in cybersecurity: Because cybersecurity is perceived as highly technical, most people think they can’t consider a job in that field. But not everyone in cybersecurity needs to be a coder. The reality is that there are many sorts of positions in cybersecurity, as with any other industry. Only a portion of those jobs is highly technical.
"Efforts must be made to increase awareness and/or change the perception of millennials and younger generations about cybersecurity as a career."

Current perceptions on cybersecurity must evolve. This can be achieved through a combined effort of the cybersecurity industry, schools, government, and parents to actively encourage young people to consider cybersecurity careers. Educators and parents play a crucial role in advising young people on the advantages of a career in cybersecurity. Schools should also actively include cybersecurity fundamentals and their importance in protecting our digital world in their curriculum, beginning in elementary school. And given that we all rely on a digital society, governments should prioritize ensuring that every child has access to technology, including how to use it safely, to eliminate today’s growing digital divide.

At the same time, cybersecurity companies need to step up by promoting cybersecurity careers. Partnering with schools or community centers, for example, can give students a taste of a future as a cybersecurity professional. Working closely with universities is another way to effectively develop the talent pipeline needed in the cybersecurity space and encourage youth participation and development. But the most effective approach would be to raise awareness. Partnering with governments, the cybersecurity industry could create public service campaigns about cybersecurity fundamentals and career opportunities. And at the same time, they need to establish training programs to not only arm citizens with knowledge and skills but also whet the appetite for more among young people.

Fortinet is Committed to Filling the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

The Fortinet Training Institute is committed to achieving a sustained and measurable global impact by working to close the skills gap across diverse audiences. It provides a wide range of cybersecurity training and certifications, career growth resources, and hiring opportunities to make a career in cybersecurity attainable for all, including youth. These include:

  • Building cyber awareness among young people: To increase cyber awareness among children ranging from 7 to 12 years old, last year Fortinet published “Cyber Safe: A Dog’s Guide to Internet Security,” a book co-authored by Renee Tarun, Deputy CISO/Vice President Information Security at Fortinet, that teaches children how to stay safe online.
  • Internship opportunities at Fortinet: Fortinet provides students and recent graduates with an opportunity to work at Fortinet as part of an internship program lasting several weeks. Interns gain hands-on experience while being exposed to opportunities in the dynamic and fast-growing cyber industry.
  • Free NSE Certification training: The self-paced courses from Fortinet’s Network Security Expert (NSE) Certification curriculum is available free of charge. It consists of eight levels of training, starting with cybersecurity fundamentals everyone should understand (NSE 1-3) and then moving step-by-step through advanced training for those who want to develop advanced skills and expertise.
  • Academic Partner Program: Fortinet provides official training materials, technology, and exam vouchers to over 400 academic institutions and NGOs in 90 countries, providing students with the opportunity to receive industry-recognized certification to help launch their careers. This program allows participants—including those from underrepresented groups—to integrate high-quality technical cybersecurity training into their curriculum to encourage, enable, and accelerate the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.
  • Education Outreach Program: Fortinet also partners with local and global organizations to create career pathways in cyber for anyone interested in different roles in cyber, including underrepresented or disadvantaged individuals.

Cybersecurity Awareness in a New World

Cybersecurity awareness is becoming as essential as looking both ways before crossing the street. We now live in a digital world in which protecting data and individual privacy has become a vital sustainability issue. Fortunately, there are currently millions of open jobs to fill, making this sector not only essential but attractive both financially and in terms of career evolution. And because cybersecurity, like technology, is constantly evolving, this field is also intellectually stimulating.

As our lives increasingly mesh with cyberspace, it affects how we work, live, learn, play, travel, shop, and socialize. In this emerging digital world, cybersecurity professionals will soon be as important as police officers, firefighters, or doctors, making a career in cybersecurity not only financially rewarding but essential to our global society.