Creating the next cybersecurity generation: ECSO’s plans for a resilient and digital Europe
Education is not only a human right, it is also key to sustainable development. With its work on cybersecurity education and training, ECSO celebrates today the International Day of Education and reflects on the future actions that must be taken to meet the increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals whilst bridging the gender gap in this field.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the 24th January as International Day of Education. Education plays a fundamental role in society’s development, especially when it comes to a fast-paced advancement such as the digital one, and the more products and services become digital, the more they need to be protected, which is why cybersecurity plays a key role in the 21st century.
But while we benefit from an extensive offer of digital services, we are also witnessing the need for more protection of our data, our passwords, our transactions and all those daily actions which we now take with a simple click on our PC or smartphone. Not only are we clearly in need of more cybersecurity professionals, but we also have a great opportunity to create more jobs and provide equal opportunities.
By now, most of us will have read many times over the projected skills gap in Europe of 350.000 experts by 2022. Now that we have reached 2022, our internal projections at ECSO actually estimate this number to be closer to 500.000. The demand for skilled cybersecurity staff is clear, but more efforts need to be made on the supply side. At ECSO, we are trying to do our part by leveraging our varied membership to develop community-driven and impactful initiatives geared towards bridging the gap between industry and academia and ultimately reducing the skills gap.
The education & training sector in Europe is still very fragmented. There is a need for a common European one-stop shop for existing education & trainings, as well as tangible mechanisms to monitor the uptake of trainings, number of skilled people, number of people entering the job market, etc. The European Commission has set up the Digital Skills & Jobs Platform, which provides digital education & training resources to the general public. Yet, this should be coupled with more hands-on and industry driven platforms specifically dedicated to cybersecurity that can provide tangible benefits for the cybersecurity job market, including bringing in more women.
There is also the need to consider the cost of trainings that are still very high. We should bring more visibility to agile and cost-effective solutions such as MOOCs that are affordable and widely accessible. Online courses scale better and can offer the same level of knowledge at a cheaper price. Working with European industry to organise training and mentoring schemes, as well as competitions and job fairs, could be another way to provide quick solutions, upskill people, and facilitate entry to the job market.
ECSO is working on bringing together the European education & training provider community and identifying mechanisms through which orchestrate this community and facilitate access to courses and trainings across Europe. Envisaged concrete initiatives to this effect include the development of a ‘Cybersecurity Education Made in Europe’ label and cooperation with Women4Cyber for the development of a European Academy for Women. This is in addition to the many other activities we are running in our WG5, including the consolidation of the European cyber range community and market, collaboration with the European HR community to support the attraction and retention of cybersecurity experts, and development minimum reference curricula to support university-level practitioners and course designers (a first version has recently been released).
It is our hope that all of these efforts will contribute to reducing the fragmentation of the European cybersecurity education landscape, boosting gender diversity in the field, and reducing the skills gap.
With our Working Group on Education, Training, Awareness, Cyber Ranges, we at ECSO are contributing to a cybersecurity capability and capacity-building effort for a cyber resilient next generation digital Europe. In our vision, increased education, professional training, skills development, as well as actions on awareness-raising, expertise-building and gender inclusiveness are fundamental aspects to achieve this goal.