Viewpoint: 5 steps to bring 'new collar' hires into the cybersecurity workforce

IBM Security General Manager Marc van Zadelhoff laid out his advice for finding cybersecurity talent in a Harvard Business Review op-ed.

Mr. van Zadelhoff argued the cybersecurity workforce needs a variety of traits, including soft skills like curiosity, problem solving and ethics. IBM has focused on creating "new collar jobs," which value knowledge and interest over traditional four-year college degrees. These new collar professionals have made up 20 percent of IBM's U.S. cybersecurity hiring since 2015.

"People with these traits can quickly pick up the technical skills through on-the-job training, industry certifications, community college courses and modern vocational and skills education programs," Mr. van Zadelhoff wrote.

Here are five steps Mr. van Zadelhoff stressed organizations should take when considering a new-collar approach to security hiring.

1. Determine what concrete skills the organization needs, and recognize potential applicants may have gained this knowledge from different education paths and experiences.

2. Improve organizational outreach efforts by seeking applications from community colleges and technical schools, rather than only focusing on traditional career fairs.

3. Build relationships with government organizations, educational institutions and other stakeholders to encourage interest in the field.

4. Once an organization hires a "new collar" cybersecurity professional, offer a comprehensive support system, such as mentorship and shadowing opportunities.

5. Encourage new hires to attend classes, certifications and conferences for ongoing education on cybersecurity trends. If employees from other departments express an interest in cybersecurity, these are useful opportunities for them, as well.

"Cybersecurity is a complex career field with extraordinarily challenging problems, but with a diverse pool of experiences and ideas, we stand a much greater chance of successfully defending our assets," Mr. van Zadelhoff concludes.

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