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IBM tackles global cybersecurity talent shortage with ‘New Collar’ jobs initiative

Big Blue wants companies to look past degrees and instead prioritise skills and capabilities.

By Ellie Burns

IBM is looking to tackle the projected 1.8 million global cybersecurity worker shortage with a new initiative that looks to promote a ‘new collar’ cybersecurity workforce strategy.

IBM is looking beyond the more traditional hiring models which focus on degrees alone, instead trying to define a new workforce approach which will reach a broader pipeline of employees based on skills, experience and aptitudes. The desired outcome is that this change in direction will help overcome the cybersecurity talent shortage and build the skills needed for the modern security workforce.

“The cybercrime landscape is evolving rapidly, yet many organizations are still approaching their cybersecurity education and hiring in the same way they were 20 years ago,” said Marc van Zadelhoff, General Manager of IBM Security.

“The truth is that many of the critical cybersecurity roles we need to fill don’t require a traditional four-year technical degree. Industry leaders need to take an active part in resolving the talent issues we’re facing, by investing in new models and extending the pipeline to focus on hands-on skills and experience over degrees alone.”

IBM has issued an urgent call to action for other organisations, advocating the need for firms to take a more strategic approach in how they recruit and hire talent, widening the aperture to accommodate all types of skills needed for the modern security workforce.

A growing number of positions in cybersecurity – and the technology industry as whole – shouldn’t be defined as “blue collar” or “white collar,” but rather as “new collar” roles that prioritise capabilities and skills over degrees.

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As a company with over 8,000 cybersecurity-focused professionals, IBM is helping lead the way by incorporating a “new collar” hiring approach into its own security business. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 IBM Security employees hired since 2015 fall into this “new collar” category.

Putting their money where their mouth is, IBM Security is investing in alternative education models that focus on bringing cybersecurity exposure and skills to students at a younger age. This includes a new initiative with ISECOM, a non-profit organization which provides Hacker Highschool, open cybersecurity courses designed specifically for teenagers to develop the critical thinking and hands-on, technical skills needed for today’s security professionals.

Students completing the Hacker Highschool curriculum will also have the opportunity for hands-on practice with IBM Security QRadar software, a deep security analytics technology used in thousands of security operation centers around the globe to help monitor malicious activity and detect attacks.

“A critical factor in the cybersecurity workforce challenge is the huge gap that exists in relevant security education resources at a high school level. The fact is that most schools don’t have teachers equipped on this subject, or appropriate course materials available,” said Pete Herzog, co-founder of ISECOM.

“With Hacker Highschool we make the courses so students can teach themselves, with an emphasis on thinking like a hacker to develop deep technical security skills, along with creativity, resourcefulness and a sense of moral responsibility to keep them on track.”

IBM will also help students gain cybersecurity skills and training through its continued investment in the P-TECH education model, which connects high school, college and the business world to prepare students for technology jobs of the future, including cybersecurity.



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