Congress explores ways to boost cybersecurity talent pipeline amid workforce shortage

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WASHINGTON — The growing threat of ransomware attacks has Congress trying to build up the cybersecurity workforce.

It comes as the nation faces a shortage of cyber professionals because of burnout and stress.


“Consistently, cybersecurity workers leave more frequently than many other roles, even within information technology, which is already rife with many hiring challenges due to talent shortages,” said Will Markow, vice president of applied research advocacy at Lightcast.

The labor market analytics firm, Lightcast, tracked more than 660,000 cybersecurity job openings over the last 12 months alone.

“This means we are stepping on to the digital battlefield missing nearly a third of our army. The consequences of this talent shortage echo across around country,” Markow said.

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It’s an army that members from both parties want to grow quickly.

“We need not only enough people but the right people with the right skills, in the right jobs to meet the growing cyber threat,” said Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R - New York.

“We must continue to expand the federal government’s support for cybersecurity training while also tailoring efforts to align with the skills needed by private sector employers,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, D – California.

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During this recent congressional hearing, industry leaders talked about a high demand for these roles, and the reasons for the workers shortage.

One theory is what researchers call the “expectations gap.” They explain some employers believe they must hire workers with many years of experience. However, experts recommend considering candidates based on skill level instead of credentials alone. Markow said this also approach has multiple benefits.

“The companies that we see with the best retention rates are the ones that are taking more of a skills-based approached to hiring as opposed to a credentials-based approach to hiring,” Markow said. “If we look at companies that are hiring workers with less than a bachelors’ degree, they had better retention rates. We look at companies hiring more a diverse workforce, they had better retention rates.”

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Other companies say they’re attracting younger people by offering training programs with more flexibility.

“You can’t sit them and say ‘You’re going to be a cyber defense analyst’ and that’s it. This rotational program is key to allowing them to see the different areas, specialties, roles that they can look at,” said Anjelica Dortch, senior director of U.S. Government Affairs at SAP.

Some companies are also recruiting more veterans who may have experience that transfers into this field.

The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the federal government’s top cyber defense agency says it is on track to hire 600 people this year and reduce vacancies to less than 8% by the end of next year.

The CISA released this statement:

“Building a robust cybersecurity workforce is vital not only for the future of CISA as America’s Cyber Defense Agency, but also to our national security,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly. “In order to combat evolving cyber threats from adversary nations and criminal gangs targeting our critical infrastructure, and to understand the security risks from emerging technologies like AI, we have to build up our nation’s cyber talent. At CISA, we’ve been leading by example. In my almost two years as Director, CISA has hired over 1,200 new employees and continues to onboard an average of 30 new hires each pay period. We are maximizing the use of multiple hiring authorities to attract and recruit top talent, while working to retain this talent by making CISA the best place to work in government. In November 2022, we hired our first Chief People Officer to drive the continued development of our People-First culture, with a dedicated focus on employee engagement, future of work, workforce recognition, and employee innovation. While there’s more work to be done, we are committed to building a world-class team and remain grateful for the strong bipartisan support of our partners in Congress.”

—  Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

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