How Philadelphia is Flipping the Script on IT Skill Shortages

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime is predicted to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021 - twice the estimated $3 trillion reported for 2015. In spite of this doubling, cybersecurity experts predict 3.5 million unfilled IT security jobs. For point of comparison, there are currently 350,000 open positions in the IT field. So, what is causing the ten-fold increase? And how will cities balance growing market demand with heightened skill shortages? Philadelphia may just have the answer. 

Understanding the Discrepancy

The gap between supply and demand mirrors larger-scale reluctance to invest in cybersecurity. Of course, not all companies take this approach, but those with more traditional brick-and-mortar foundations, rather than start-ups or those born in the cloud, have been historically slower to invest in modern technology. And the effects are telling. The 2017 Global Information Security Study by Frost & Sullivan concluded that over two-thirds, or 13,000 of their 20,000 respondents, lack adequate cybersecurity professionals for the current, and future, threat landscape.

Now that these threats have reached a near-ubiquitous status, the skills to combat them are having to catch up. Why is this? The root causes tend to fall into two camps. Most middle and high school curriculum fail to include basic computer science skills, let alone cybersecurity-specific classes. This oversight under-serves emerging generations of digital natives. The other predominant cause stems from a reluctance to merge traditional brick-and-mortar businesses with modern technological platforms. This reluctance can manifest in any manner of ways, even something as rudimentary as employee training. According to a survey conducted in November 2017 by the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), companies consistently reported subpar training for their employees:

  • 45% of those surveyed had experienced a cybersecurity event in the past two years
  • 91% believe that most companies are cyber vulnerable

When asked to reflect on these numbers, businesses attributed the vulnerability to a lack of cybersecurity staff and proper training for non-technical employees.  

Proactive in Philadelphia

The biggest skill shortages fall within the following areas: security analysis and investigation, application security, and cloud computing security. ISSA reported that 31% of respondents experienced the first two, while 29% were dealing with a shortage of cloud computing security skills. There has also been a consistent lack, or mismanagement of, IT cybersecurity investments. Companies fail to: 

  1. Invest in employee training

  2. Build repeatable processes

  3. Align cybersecurity and business goals

  4. Factor a skills shortage in future planning 

Philly businesses just aren't willing to take this chance. As of 2018, Philadelphia has the second-highest growth in Bachelor degree holders in the United States. They increased 115% over the past ten years, just slightly behind Washington D.C.'s 129% growth rate. The city has also retained 54% of its college graduates, with initiatives such as Campus Philly linking 35 colleges and 40 corporate members for those on the job hunt. Furthermore, the top industries in Philadelphia are currently:

  1. Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Industry
  2. Architecture and Engineering Industry 

Unemployment has dipped to 4.9%, and other Pennsylvania cities, such as Pittsburgh, now rank in the top 20 for domestic job growth. Philadelphia has also proactively tackled the IT skill shortage through programs such as Hopeworks, which teaches kids web design and development, and Women in Tech, which focuses on diversifying the field. With programs such as these, the city is fostering an environment that encourages emerging demographics and generations to succeed in tech.  

Wondering How iCorps Is Putting Philadelphia IT Experts to Work?

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