With a surge of cyber threats in the last year, more efforts in diverse recruitment and advancement are surfacing within the cybersecurity industry. Among them, the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) – a nonprofit promoting cybersecurity education and awareness – has launched a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Career Program.
The program partners with several HBCUs and cybersecurity organizations like Trellix, Proofpoint, Dell Technologies, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Quanta Services, to address the alarming increase of unfilled positions within the industry.
In fact, according to CyberSeek – an initiative combining the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), CompTIA, and Lightcast [formerly known as Emsi Burning Glass] – there were nearly 715,000 unfilled cybersecurity roles posted in the U.S. alone from a 12-month period running through April of this year.
“Demand for cybersecurity jobs increased by 43% in the 12-month period compared to a nearly 18% increase in demand across the entire employment market,” CompTIA stated.
The NCA stated that only 9% of the cybersecurity workforce identify as Black and only 4% identify as Hispanic. “This means building bonds with underrepresented communities is not just pivotal to closing the workforce gap, but in building a more inclusive cybersecurity community,” the nonprofit sated.
“The cybersecurity industry is dominated by outdated misperceptions that give interested job seekers pause about whether the space is right for them. Through the HBCU mentorship program we are looking to correct these long-standing stereotypes,” NCA Executive Director Lisa Plaggemier told SDxCentral.
Cyber-solutions Through Mentorship
A key component of the partnership’s initiatives is a mentoring program, which includes training for the mentors on strategizing effective methods to administer enrollment.
Plaggemier explained each matched mentee will connect for a minimum of 10 sessions. “These sessions will provide mentees with in-the-know guidance from mentors on resume building, interview prep, networking, and more,” she said.
Another chief initiative will be an event series in both fall and spring semesters at HBCUs featuring panel discussions, recruiters, and guest speakers [including personal stories from recent HBCU grads], aiming to provide “a deep dive into the cybersecurity and privacy field,” with outlined career paths and tools for development.
“For decades, we have relied on the same recruitment tactics to close the cybersecurity talent gap. Our lack of diversity is holding us back.” Trellix CHRO Michael Alicea stated.
Alicea explained to SDxCentral that he sees “the same people getting promoted from one job to another job in the same set of companies – Zscaler takes from us, CrowdStrike takes from us, we take from CrowdStrike, we take from Cisco – and it’s just the same people. We’re actually not delivering new ideas… You need fresh ideas. These things are not going to come from the same people who have been doing the same thing for 20 years.”
CHRO of partnering vendor Proofpoint Sharyl Givens said, “At Proofpoint, the diversity of our people is the driving force behind much of our success.” Givens believes the program will be a central paradigm in reproducing this success with the “next generation of cyber talent.”