Comment: IT security skills in short supply

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THERE is increasing concern about the impact of the “cyberskills gap” – the fact that the current pipeline of appropriate graduates is not enough to meet demand.

The National Audit Office last week warned that the dearth of skilled workers hampers Britain’s ability to protect itself from costly internet attacks and it could take two decades to fill the gap. The industry desperately needs to develop experienced people with the right mix of operations, IT and security knowledge.

The “geek culture” image of IT needs to be erased. While there is room for so-called geeks, the IT industry is all-encompassing and has openings for all types of people with all paths leading to exciting futures.

There has been a rush to teach all children how to program a computer in a bid to encourage IT. Why? The complexity may lead them to shy away. Physics is taught before nuclear engineering, maths before astronomy.

We need people who know how to design, people who can learn, people who can communicate. We need to teach the basics long before we get to the code.

Inspiring the brightest of the next generation is not about programming at the age of 14. Software engineers are the people who build and – crucially – protect the future that others can use to better themselves and society.

We are the unsung heroes; where would the world be today without software and the systems that drive all businesses in the world? And cyber security experts are the superheroes fighting this growing threat.

We need to encourage the next generation so that they become the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of the future.

Don’t suffocate inquisitive minds and dull the senses by teaching programming too early. We need to adopt the design and engineering approach into how we teach computing.

This is the only way that our fantastic industry will survive and we’ll start to address the skills gap.

We, as an industry, must wake up and recover the passion that existed only a couple of decades ago.

Software isn’t a commodity it’s an art.

• Alastair O’Brien is public services sector director at technology specialists Amor Group