Cyber Talent Recruitment: The Best Defense Is An Earlier Offense

By Cynthia Jenkins, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Skillsgapp

According to cybersecurity expert, Gary S. Miliefsky, “There will be a global shortage of exactly 5 million cybersecurity jobs worldwide by January 2023.”
Amid an era of unprecedented ransomware attacks, data breaches and supply chain intrusions – the volume of cyber intrusion activity globally soared 125% last year over the previous – what is a company to do in order to shore up their cyber defenses and further, do so during the tightest labor market in the industry’s history?

One significant resource, a game-changer in addressing the cyber/IT skills gap, will be innovative technology; the kind that seeks to connect students to careers in cybersecurity, earlier in the workforce life cycle.

The use of simulation will also be important; mobile outreach, particularly to rural populations; and interactive, gamified apps; these tools will deliver an engaging, skills-based experience, a curriculum that can grow with a student, from soft-skills to bankable hours toward certifications.

Virtual training addresses the highly unique needs of our upcoming generations and leverages the many changes in our society that have taken place over the past decade, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using technology to allow virtual skills development takes advantage of the shift in our culture – The Entertainment Software Association reports that Americans spend an average of seven hours a week playing online games with others. At a time when only 5% of our high school students study computer science due to lack of funding and/or lack of set standards in cyber/computer science curriculum, this medium serves as a powerful, scalable conduit to students, including importantly those being left behind in these most basic skills, especially young women and students of color.

According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of 13- to 17-year-olds have access to a smartphone, and a similar share (97%) use at least one of seven major online social platforms. The worldwide health crisis of 2020/21 has only fueled that number and validated technology as a viable, teachable medium, as well as prompted a renewed focus on increasing broadband coverage in rural areas.

If there’s one thing we’ve seen illustrated in the past two years, it’s that those in regions of the country with lower broadband reach are disadvantaged when it comes to virtual education. Fortunately, we now have not only renewed focus and knowledge about that disparity, but there are also tools – some of which were used by public school systems around the country – to help counter that disparity and supplement broadband access.

The U.S. military is already taking advantage of the use of technology and the mobile gaming trend.

Indeed, one of the most revered workforces in the world uses gaming for tactical training, upskilling, soft skills, and for recruitment. “America’s Army Proving Grounds” is the official game for the U.S. Army that lets players try out virtual missions and maneuvers that echo true-to-life Army scenarios.

If the U.S. Army can complete ‘Missions Impossible’ in headsets, the cybersecurity/IT industry can employ interactive educational technology to help our next workforce generation develop real-world work skills through interactive, digital experiences that will engage with industry and expose users to existing opportunities. Augmented reality can also be used as a more cost-efficient venue for training, apprenticeships, and stackable credentialing.

The warm-body recruitment approach of today simply isn’t sustainable. To meet the crisis at hand in safeguarding our cyber defenses and repopulating our workforce in the process, focus needs to shift to the workforce pipeline – and thinking early in that workforce pipeline, starting in middle to high school.

Our up-and-coming cyber workforce craves career awareness and ultimately, guided access to pathways and industry. Technology is the answer.

Funding is needed to support broader computer science and cyber programing, in-class career learning driven by industry, and funding supported by the government, yes. But there also needs to be an open-minded approach to leveraging novel technology, both in and out of the classroom, as this is a digital generation that learns best via the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) and by doing things with their hands.

About the Author
Cynthia Jenkins AuthorCynthia Jenkins is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Skillsgapp, the developer of Cyber Watchdog and other workforce development and career awareness mobile games designed for middle- and high schoolers+ with regionalized cyber pathways, apprenticeships and job opportunities, based on a player’s location and proficiencies.
Contact Cynthia at or

September 27, 2022

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