Michael Keen – Director of Cyber Training, PGI Cyber Academy
Let’s face it, the security industry is confusing. On one hand, we‘re telling organisations to educate staff better, secure systems, create useful policies, and employ more staff with skills and knowledge to protect data and operational systems. On the other hand, training tends to be expensive, is often misleading, and only sometimes accredited and recognised. It’s also too easy to either pick a training course that appears to meet learning outcome needs for staff or even ask staff to decide for themselves, only to find that it isn’t actually aligned to their role and/or organisational requirements.
We often talk about the ’cyber skills gap‘, but without really understanding what that means, the words don’t mean much. When we talk about a cyber skills gap, we’re talking about the lack of cyber professionals to undertake the work needed to counter threats (and provide training to entry-level colleagues). The result is a high cost of skilled staff to facilitate scalable capability. If only those financially capable of proactively trying to prevent the next Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are skilled—and SMEs only able to do the very basics—it seems logical that the vast influx of attacks could well be targeted at this vulnerable grey area – likely MEs and corporates.
This lack of cyber security professionals is exacerbated by the scarcity of effective entry level training and the absence of universally recognised qualifications. Even with education institutions slowly catching up to the requirements of the sector, the skills gap is further widened because employers tend to be sceptical about the value of theoretical university cyber security qualifications; looking instead for practical experience. This often means that the employers who can afford it, only hire already-skilled professionals. Meanwhile, the lack of skills diversity amongst those entering the profession places constraints on the industry’s ability to scale, as well as its access to talent and experience, which affects capability growth for a skilled workforce and self-sustainability. It’s a dangerous cycle.
What about people who have the aptitude for the industry and might already be in the workforce? While there are many training courses to help existing professionals fill skills gaps, there are few effective new-entrant or conversion training programmes. This is because—to produce graduates who will immediately be competent in the workplace—entry level cyber security training must overcome two obstacles:
- Ensuring graduates learn the technical skills using appropriate tools and techniques;
- Keeping up with hostile cyber actors adopting and adapting techniques and developing new hostile capability at pace.
What is the solution?
To combat confusing lists of training courses, both online or offline, or qualifications with no substance that reach the top of search engines, PGI Cyber Academy has demonstrable experience of designing and delivering effective training and mentoring skills development programmes. These deliver graduates that are qualified, hungry and competent who add immediate value to operational workforces; enabling organisations to protect their own assets or provide their own clients with their expertise in defending against the cyber threat.
We’ve worked with UK Government, international governments, and partners to help recruit new talent—or transition existing staff into cyber security practitioners to undertake work in the various domains the industry requires. PGI’s trainers have in-depth operational experience and an appreciation for business risk, enabling them to deliver accredited, recognised and effective training whilst mentoring learners. This combination ensures that those graduating from our programmes are entering the industry with the professional guidance and real-world, practical understanding of how to help businesses overcome challenges by security implementations.
For learners, this means they have access to experienced mentors combined with both classroom and immersive remote training. This allows all types of learners to effectively apply their theory into practical situations and become effective cyber security practitioners, further reducing the cyber skills and knowledge gaps in their organisations within their new roles.
For clients, we’ve seen an increase in employee retention and rapid skills development. This ensures the services that need resourcing can be tackled with diverse and creative thinking, whilst maintaining a network of new professionals and creating new mentors while cost savings are being recorded at every angle – from recruitment through to reducing the danger and worry of security breaches.