Millennials and post-millennials play a key role in solving the cybersecurity skills shortage now and in the future, according to a recent survey.

While the survey participants revealed a deep understanding of technology and computing, they also showed a lack of awareness around key cybersecurity issues. The authors of the report noted that those knowledge gaps can serve as opportunities for the security industry to recruit members of this tech-savvy generation for cybersecurity careers.

A Life Molded by Technology

The survey found that millennials and post-millennials could thrive in cybersecurity because they grew up with smartphones, digital tablets and other modern technologies. Twenty-seven percent of respondents classified themselves as technology innovators while 41 percent identified as early adopters of technology.

These viewpoints shaped many of the survey participants’ future plans. For example, 23 percent of high school-age individuals said they were interested in pursuing computer science and technology in college, while 18 percent plan to study science and math and 15 percent aspire to major in engineering.

Many respondents also expressed an interest in pursuing technology-related careers. One-third reported intentions to go into video game development, 21 percent said they are interested in software development and 15 percent would like to enter the engineering field.

Millennials Lack Awareness About Cybersecurity Careers

For the study, cloud security provider ProtectWise commissioned Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) to survey 524 millennials and post-millennials in the U.S. Their responses suggested a general lack of awareness among those age groups about IT security as a career path.

When asked whether they’d consider a career in cybersecurity, just 9 percent responded affirmatively, and 37 percent of participants said they were not interested in the security field because they did not know enough about it. Others cited a lack of technical aptitude (28 percent), requisite education (21 percent) and professional certifications (15 percent).

The report asserted that a lack of exposure was most likely to blame for this unfamiliarity with cybersecurity. Sixty-nine percent of survey participants said they’d never taken a class in cybersecurity, and 65 percent admitted that their schools never offered such a course. In addition, only 17 percent of millennials and post-millennials reported ever having met a cybersecurity professional.

Addressing the Cybersecurity Skills Shortage

James Condon, director of threat research and analysis at ProtectWise, said that millennials, particularly women, could be the key to solving the talent shortage if they knew more about security.

“The … concerns expressed by millennials and post-millennials would seemingly be addressed by providing earlier exposure to information security learning opportunities,” Condon wrote. He also pointed out that the “vast majority” of respondents did not reject the prospect of pursuing a cybersecurity career outright.

To help close the skills gap, Condon advised cybersecurity organizations to build partnerships with schools to create early learning opportunities for students, such as after-school security programs.

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