MENA millennials have a real opportunity to fill regional skills gap in cybersecurity, Booz Allen Hamilton says

Millennials in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have the potential to resolve major cyber talent shortages in the region if the industry recognizes and leverages their potential, a recent Viewpoint by Booz Allen Hamilton has revealed.

Globally, there is a shortage of 2.9 million cybersecurity professionals, according to the 2018 Cybersecurity Workforce Study. This gap is also pronounced in the MENA where organizations sometimes lack understanding of cybersecurity requirements; businesses find it difficult to support new staff with necessary training; and qualified talent can be hard to find. But given that the region has one of the world’s youngest populations and highest youth unemployment rates, there is tremendous opportunity to better engage millennials in the cyber workforce.

Souheil Moukaddem, Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, said: “Data from the World Bank shows that the millennial generation in the MENA comprises approximately one-third of the total population and more than 50 percent of the labor force. Therefore, there is a huge opportunity to harness their untapped potential. Furthermore, as digital natives, many are tech-savvy enough to quickly acclimate and evolve into a cybersecurity occupation with the appropriate formal and on-the-job training.”

Research has also shown that the cybersecurity profession aligns with MENA millennial career motivators, including the ability to continuously learn and have a successful career. It is also often known for prioritizing continued professional development for valued industry certifications, offering engaging work that evolves to keep pace with an ever-changing threat landscape, career progression opportunities, and highly commanded salaries.

The opportunities and career motivators exist, however better preparation and engagement will go a long way in attracting MENA millennials to join the future cybersecurity workforce. A concerted effort is needed to design targeted cyber-awareness campaigns to improve the cybersecurity employee value proposition and engage millennials through government, employer, and academia collaboration.

Booz Allen recommends strategic initiatives to attract and develop millennials for the cybersecurity profession. This includes developing a holistic program with multiple stakeholders, including government, employers, and academia and supporting it with a professionalized career model, motivation-based recruitment and workforce capacity building.

Ziad Nasrallah, Principal at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA, said: “Looking ahead, employers must identify risk-based and adaptive workforce needs, tailor the employee value proposition, and adopt a ‘hire-and-train’ strategy to drive cybersecurity capability development. Academia can also design interdisciplinary cybersecurity curriculums, foster connections between students and employers and offer experiential cybersecurity training. These measures will go a long way in ensuring that cyber careers are top of mind among professionals in the GCC.”

Everyone has a shared responsibility to reach out to millennials in the cybersecurity profession to close critical workforce gaps. While cybersecurity jobs are available and the cybersecurity profession largely aligns with MENA millennial career motivators, the next stage is to prepare them for the job responsibilities required for the cybersecurity profession.