Infusing New Perspectives Into the Cybersecurity Workforce With a New Collar Approach

According to ISACA, the cybersecurity skills shortage is projected to reach 2 million unfilled positions by 2019. Addressing this widening skills gap requires a multifaceted strategy that must include new professional and computing capability. This approach calls for the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and engagement with new professionals to augment the existing, increasingly shorthanded cybersecurity workforce.

Three Keys to New Collar Recruitment

In 2017, IBM announced a cybersecurity skills initiative through a new collar workforce strategy. A report titled, “It’s Not Where You Start — It’s How You Finish: Addressing the Cybersecurity Skills Gap With a New Collar Approach,” outlined the three key elements of this strategy.

1. New Employee Profiles

When I was working at a startup, we hired based on reputation and capability. The focus was on creating or looking for those core attributes and skills in the market as a way to source individuals. Some of those engineers are still top performers despite having no university qualifications.

Traditional university course content and engagement is not the only way forward: A new collar approach focuses on skills, not degrees, as a prerequisite to find nontraditional candidates with diverse backgrounds and experience. That’s why IBM joined forces with Tamesek Polytechnic in Singapore to train 500 students over five years to fight cybercrime in a security operations center (SOC) setting. This initiative is an example of IBM’s commitment to helping aspiring cybersecurity professionals build practical, specific security skills as an output rather than focusing on the credit points required to fulfill degree qualifications.

2. New Types of Roles

New roles focused on emerging technologies require specific skills and knowledge to perform. Like other emerging science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career paths, the cybersecurity workforce needs people who are builders, operators and communicators.

Security leaders can often find candidates for cybersecurity roles who are already working in various nontechnical departments throughout the organization. For example, with a little fast-tracked education, disaster recovery experts can become excellent incident response professionals. Likewise, health care professionals possess the foundational skills required to become effective threat hunters — only instead of fighting disease, they would be combating security incidents that threaten the overall health of the security immune system.

Twenty percent of the new hires who have joined IBM Security in the U.S. since 2015 have been new collar workers. These professionals contribute various skills, insights and perspectives that fulfill the core responsibilities required to keep up with today’s evolving threat landscape.

3. New Partnerships

A new collar approach requires security leaders to reach out and develop new relationships. Initiatives such as the Australian government’s Cyber Security Growth Centre and Joint Cyber Security Centre promote this type of outreach. IBM Australia, in association with Federation University, also established a national Pathways in Technology (P-Tech) schools program, a public-private partnership in which industry players provide mentoring by way of paid internships. Seven P-Tech schools are already in operation, and the program is set to reach a total of 14 by 2018.

Empowering the Cybersecurity Workforce With Cognitive Capabilities

Attracting more talent to the industry is one avenue to help close this skills gap, but new technology is required to help those professionals cope with the complexity within today’s environments.

Cognitive capabilities help deliver insights gathered from collaborative global threat intelligence, cybersecurity blogs, wiki pages, podcasts and more. By using Watson capabilities, IBM Security brings a global perspective to help security professionals optimize decision-making. This enables individuals with varying levels of skill and experience to more quickly arrive at conclusions and reduce the time required to perform a task. At the same time, Watson provides the evidence it uses to arrive at these conclusions, helping security professionals grow their knowledge base.

These cognitive capabilities cover all kinds of cybersecurity tasks, from prioritizing mobile patches to helping the security operations team evaluate incidents and broaden its investigative scope.

The New Collar Approach in Action: Local Partnerships Through Active Engagement

In recognition of the need for security professionals to form new partnerships, IBM Security launched the IBM Security Technology Customer Council for Australia and New Zealand in 2016. The objective was to form a community of users through a meetup-style event held every four to six months. At the most recent events, I encouraged invitees to bring a colleague who is new to cybersecurity.

With the diverse panel and many new guests, attendees were given access to perspectives from various professional backgrounds. It reminded me again that diversity provides fresh and unique views that challenge us to think differently about problems technologists have pondered for decades. This is a great example of the new collar approach in action.

Read the complete IBMreport: Addressing the Skills Gap with a New Collar Approach

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Christopher Hockings

IBM Master Inventor

Chris Hockings is an IBM Master Inventor and Executive IT Specialist. Chris is a member of the IBM World-Wide Security Centre of Excellence team, where he leads a team of security technology experts.Chris is an expert in leading strategic customer solutions around Security for Cloud and Mobile, particularly for the finance and government sectors. He is a member of the IBM Academy, an invitation only group of technologists that have a leading role in guiding IBM's market strategy.