Kent helping to address cybersecurity skills gap

Olivia Miller

A new policy report co-led by Dr Jason Nurse, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at the Institute of Cyber Security for Society (iCSS) and School of Computing, has found that the number of programmes and students engaged in cybersecurity within higher education are growing. This is also complemented by an increase in state-level initiatives across Europe in cybersecurity skills.

As a consequence, the number of graduates in the next 2-3 years is expected to double in Europe. However, more is still needed to tackle the cybersecurity skills shortage and gap; for instance, gender balance is still an issue with only 20% of female students enrolled.

The new report issued by the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) analyses data gathered by the Cybersecurity Higher Education Database (CyberHEAD) in order to make a prediction on the future trends. It also reflects on national policies and initiatives that have been put forward to address the pressing need for cyber skills.

The report’s findings are encouraging with the cybersecurity field continuing to expand. Over the past decade a worrying skill gap and shortage had emerged, with the demand for specialists increasing, but a lack of skilled workers entering the field. National labour markets have been disrupted worldwide as a consequence.

The report proposes a series of recommendations to mitigate the cybersecurity skills gap, which are intended for European Nations and Institutions interested in cybersecurity skills and the role that Higher Education has to play, EU Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), Business and industry, and researchers and the academic community. These recommendations centre on actions to increase the student enrolment on cybersecurity degrees and the quality of candidates, equipping them with the skills needed and most in demand in the field. They also focus on how to improve the diversity of graduates and thus the future security workforce.

Dr Nurse said: ‘Our findings show that cybersecurity developments (e.g., student enrolment, graduates, topics covered by security degrees) in higher education are moving in the right direction, which is great to see. This report advises how we can make the field more attractive to students and graduates, from diversifying the curriculum, through to the education format and provision of scholarships in HEIs. There is also the need for a unified approach across government, industry and HEIs to set a standard of skills and knowledges and a common framework regarding cybersecurity roles.

‘It is concerning that only 20% of current cybersecurity students enrolled are female and this, amongst other topics, needs further investigation to understand how greater diversity – in gender and additional areas – can be driven in the field.’

The report titled ‘Addressing the EU Cybersecurity Skills Shortage and Gap Through Higher Education’ can be accessed on ENISA’s website.