Despite remarkable efforts, the Swiss education system will probably not be able to meet the rapidly growing demand for ICT specialists. This enormous educational and macroeconomic challenge to meet the rapidly growing demand for ICT specialists calls for extraordinary measures.
Serge Frech is the Managing Director of ICT-Berufsbildung Schweiz (ICT Vocational Education & Training Switzerland). This national association represents the rapidly growing field of information and communication technology (ICT) and is the champion of ICT skills in vocational training.
Samir Aliyev, CEO and Founder of the Swiss Cyber Institute has been talking with Serge. In this interview, Samir has been discussing with him, amongst other things, about various studies which show that women account for 25% of the cybersecurity workforce globally while representing 17% of ICT specialist in Switzerland, and how one can attract more women to fill the cybersecurity talent gap?
A 2022 study from cybersecurity training and certifications non-profit ISC² found that the worldwide gap of cybersecurity workers totals 3.4 million, while in Switzerland, there will be a shortage of about 40,000 IT specialists by 2030. Are all sectors affected by this shortage of specialists?
Yes, because ICT specialists are essential in all sectors. Only 30% of ICT specialists work in the ICT sector, the rest are employed in other sectors – such as in financial services, consulting, education, etc. Compared to other ICT jobs in Switzerland, the additional demand for ICT security specialist is the highest in relative terms. According to our calculations, we are going to need 60% additional ICT security specialists by 2030. Because it is a very sensitive field, a shortage could have most uncomfortable consequences for the federation, society, and the economy.
According to various studies, women account for 25% of the cybersecurity workforce globally while representing 17% of ICT specialist in Switzerland. How can we attract more women to fill the cybersecurity talent gap?
There are many reasons that prevent women in Switzerland from pursuing a career in ICT. For this reason, there is no one single solution. We all need to play a role in dissolving stereotypes, helping them find their talent and understand the opportunities this career path provides. But we also must take better account of the perspective of women, rethink and adjust the conditions to make these jobs attractive for them too.
Can we reasonably expect to increase our capacity to train enough Swiss specialists to meet the market needs?
Despite remarkable efforts, the Swiss education system will probably not be able to meet the rapidly growing demand for ICT specialists. This enormous educational and macroeconomic challenge calls for extraordinary measures. Nonetheless, there is still great potential regarding vocational training. The demand for apprenticeship positions currently exceeds the supply, and the low percentage of women in ICT jobs is also an indication of untapped potential. We also need to find new ways to fill the gap. New programs, such as SPARC, a free pre-service training for teenagers and young adults interested in the topic of cyber security are tackling the issue.
Nonetheless: Vocational training remains the most powerful and sustainable tool to increase the number of ICT specialist, entering the economy.
The need to fill those positions is unlikely to lessen in the near future. What should companies do to secure the right talents and stay ahead of cybersecurity threats, and will it be sufficient?
In the long run, the most effective and sustainable measure for companies in Switzerland is to offer apprenticeship positions; to train the next generation themselves. These apprentices later specialise in fields such as cybersecurity, for example with the Federal Diploma of Higher Education Cyber Security Specialist. The demand is not decreasing in the near future, so we need to take measures today to be ready tomorrow.
The most urgent and future skill sets sometimes aren’t even identified yet, let alone taught at scale. What can be done to secure and retain cybersecurity team members in the face of today’s and future challenges.
ICT-Berufsbildung Schweiz is mandated by the government to define which skills specialists must have in order to receive certain federal diplomas in ICT. In this role, it is crucial to anticipate developments which might have an impact on the required skill sets. The association regularly reviews the quality and relevance of the curricula and ordinances. This is done in collaboration with experts from the field.