The information security industry is facing an inflationary spiral, which is both unsustainable and bad for the economy as the skills gap in information security continues to widen. Speaking at RSA Europe 2012 in London this week, John Colley, Managing Director, EMEA for (ISC)2, reviewed the organisation’s latest research showing the information security profession is experiencing unemployment levels at less than 4 percent, with salaries rising for 70 percent of the workforce. A healthy number, nearly 14 percent, experienced salary increases of more than 10 percent, according to the (ISC)2 Career Impact Survey conducted earlier this year.
Colley pointed out that in a normal economic cycle, high salaries would attract newcomers to fill the growth in demand and allow the development of a healthy job market. The newcomers in information security, however, face too many barriers to entry, while threats rise to fuel demand for information security and the professionals that can deliver it.
“Employers today are struggling, taking up to six months to fill positions. They are looking for people who have a basic understanding of security concepts and experience. Newcomers are not being provided with the opportunities to develop either,” he said.
Pointing out that the (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study conducted by industry analysts has accurately projected growth since 2004 and anticipates the workforce to nearly double by 2015, Colley said: “This is a scary statistic when you ask yourself where all the new people are going to come from.”
“Full employment is both good and bad news for the profession. On the one hand, it offers people with the right qualifications, experience and skills, opportunities for career advancement, but on the other, it causes excessively high salary expectations. Short-staffed teams take on extra workload and stress; there is little time for professional development, and the risk of employees taking on tasks and responsibilities that may not be at par with their abilities rises.”
The solution, according to Colley, will require a concerted effort to develop a healthy job market for the profession with support both for young people to move into the field and the hiring managers who at the moment have no way of identifying aptitude in undeveloped talent.
“We are seeing a lot of talk about the skills gap and many efforts to raise interest in the opportunities. But what are we doing with these people once we get their interest? There isn’t at the moment the support mechanism available to get them working productively. It’s a big problem that I am not sure is well understood,” concluded Colley.
Emphasising that the effort to develop interest must continue, Colley suggested that industry and the profession should also work more closely with universities to better inform them and their future students of the opportunities, while doing more to formalise career support and guidance.
“We don’t yet have all the answers. Employers will not be able focus on experience alone for much longer; however, employers will also need support in developing the workforce and the healthy job market required,” said Colley.