How unemployed grads are closing the global cybersecurity skills gap 

Young cybersecurity professional at work

By Martin Pienaar, Chief Operations Officer at Mindworx

The race to embrace digitalisation has created a pressing challenge – a worldwide cybersecurity skills gap, leaving businesses and society vulnerable to the constant threat of cybercrime and malicious attacks.

The costs of cybercrime include stolen funds, data destruction, intellectual property theft, fraud, and post-attack disruptions, among others, so a cyber-attack or data breach can wreak havoc on any organisation, leading to severe financial losses and irreparable damage to reputation. The escalating severity and frequency of cyber-attacks underscore the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures, but the acute shortage of skilled professionals has left anyone who owns or manages data floundering.

The Fortinet 2023 Cybersecurity Skills Gap report paints a stark picture, with over 80% of organisations worldwide falling victim to cyber-attacks in the past year alone. Nearly half of these organisations experienced at least one data breach in the past 12 months, leading to expensive remediation efforts. And in South Africa, a recent piece of research amongst chief information security officers recorded increased adoption of cyber-specific insurance. This specialised product covers financial losses due to cyber-attacks and data breaches.

Africa’s rapid growth and the staggering number of internet users have made it a prime target for cybercrime syndicates. The region faces a definite increase in sophisticated bad actor syndicates, continuously seeking new ways to infiltrate networks. The South African government, in particular, has become a significant target for global threat actors, with crucial institutions like Transnet, the City of Joburg and the SA Reserve Bank falling victim to debilitating ransomware attacks.

The cybersecurity skills crisis poses critical risks, with 70% of security leaders acknowledging additional risks due to shortages in cybersecurity expertise. To compound the issue for us in South Africa, the demand for these skills is escalating globally, making immigration a significant contributor to the skills scarcity at home. While large tech businesses globally have provided temporary relief by reducing hiring and retrenching resources, the need for cybersecurity skills will inevitably surge again, meaning we need to act now to bridge the skills gap.

 The cybersecurity digital skills gap is further being exacerbated by the migration of companies to cloud-based operations, which  increases  demand for expertise in data architecture, modelling, and cloud security. 

At the Mindworx Academy, we play a crucial role in addressing two of South Africa’s current challenges—bridging the digital skills gap and doing so by  training unemployed high-potential graduates, giving them almost-guaranteed access to the labour market. The unemployment rate amongst South African graduates has escalated at an alarming pace over the past decade and now sits at 10.6%. 

By sourcing graduates from diverse South African universities, focusing on STEM subjects and solid logical abilities, and working in collaboration with partners like MICT Seta and AWS, we’re supporting the development of cybersecurity skills with a focus on ACISSP AWS Certified Security Specialist and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) training—certification in these crucial skills lines grads up for instant employment opportunities.

By nurturing an often-overlooked talent pool, skilled human assets are being developed to meet industry demands. Their efforts extend beyond local impact, with the potential to contribute to international projects and global employment stability. Reskilling existing resources with organisational knowledge can be the fastest way to close skills gaps. 

Building a robust cybersecurity workforce has become imperative in the face of relentless cyber threats. By fortifying the country’s digital realm through cybersecurity expertise and creating employment for many, we’re contributing to a safer and more secure future for businesses and society alike. 

This article was published on the 2nd of August in IT-Online


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