Skills over degrees in IBM’s new cybersecurity initiative
IBM Security has launched fintech programmes and partnerships to overcome the projected 1.8 million-person cybersecurity worker shortage and boost its market share.
As part of its initiative, IBM is sponsoring alternative education models such as Hacker Highschool and Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). It is also looking to change traditional hiring models which focus on degrees alone. In fact, it says nearly 20% of IBM Security professionals hired in the US since 2015 fall into a category of “new collar” employees.
The firm says people shouldn’t be defined as “blue collar” or “white collar,” but rather as “new collar” roles – meaning they put capabilities and skills over degrees.
Marc van Zadelhoff, GM of IBM Security, says “many organisations are still approaching their cybersecurity education and hiring in the same way they were 20 years ago” – and “the truth is that many of the critical cybersecurity roles we need to fill don’t require a traditional four-year technical degree”.
IBM and ISECOM, a non-profit organisation which provides Hacker Highschool, will open cybersecurity courses designed specifically for teenagers to develop critical thinking and hands-on technical skills. IBM will provide sponsorship, guidance and its IBM Security tools.
Through P-TECH, public high school students can get a high school diploma and an industry-recognised two-year postsecondary degree at “no cost to them or their families, while working with industry partners like IBM on skills mapping, mentorship, workplace experiences and internships”.
While all the above involves bringing in more (younger) people, IBM reckons many of the core attributes and skills needed to succeed in this industry can be developed outside traditional four-year, university degree programmes.
IBM states that vocational schools, associate degree programmes, military veteran programmes, coding camps and skills-based certifications are all “great sources” of cybersecurity talent.
To that end, IBM has outlined several steps companies can consider to get started with their own talent approach. These include redefining hiring models, i.e. don’t focus solely on degrees as prerequisites; and expand places of recruitment – meaning don’t be limited to a select set of universities that have always been focused on.