Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971


Cyber security: Bridging the talent gap

A global survey by Raytheon on cyber security found a higher awareness of the issue among the UAE youth compared to other countries
By: Sakha Pramod
Photo: Ahmad Al Blooshi
At a time when cyber-attacks are on the increase, about one million cyber security job openings went unfilled around the world last year, according to a recent report. In today’s world cyber security is of paramount importance to the public and private sector. So, Raytheon commissioned a global survey “Securing Our Future: Closing the Cyber security Talent Gap,” in partnership with the National Cyber Security Alliance. Nation Shield talked to Christopher J. Davis, President, Raytheon International, Inc, UAE and Shahzad Zafar, Director, Cyber Security, Raytheon International Inc. UAE about the survey and came up with some interesting findings. Excerpts:
Q: What was the objective of the survey?
Christopher J Davis: The primary purpose of the survey was to try to determine why there was a talent gap in cyber security professions. Raytheon as a company has for several years had a deep interest in this topic. In the last year and a half, Raytheon has been particularly interested in developing cyber security professionals and reducing the talent gap for young professionals here in the UAE.
Shahzad Zafar: The first edition of the survey was conducted about a year ago, and there were some interesting findings that came out. Since then, there have been several initiatives and corrective measures. So we wanted to conduct another survey this year to gage the progress made from last year. 
Q: What was the methodology used for the survey?
Christopher J Davis: The previous survey included some younger people about 16 years old or so. This survey focused on a slightly older audience who were in the process of deciding which field or career they should choose.
Shahzad Zafar: We primarily conducted it in about 10 different countries across the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Around 4,000 youth were interviewed or surveyed. Mostly about 15-20 percent of them were Emiratis in the UAE. The survey covered youth in high school or those who have joined college in the age group of 18-26. 
Q: Which countries did the participants of the survey come from?
Christopher J Davis: In Europe the survey covered UK, Germany and Poland. In the Middle East we had included the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan. In Asia Pacific, we had Japan and Singapore. 
Q: What was level of cyber security awareness the participants had?
Christopher J Davis: It is very interesting. The previous survey showed a high level of awareness. The same trend we saw again during this survey, and according to the findings, over 73 percent of the Emiratis surveyed had been taught about the need for online cyber security awareness, compared to the 71 percent average in the Middle East and worldwide. They had either taken steps to ensure cyber security or were aware of the need for it. They were also aware of the potential for a career in cyber security. Specifically, the survey shows that 72 percent of Emiratis were given career guidance in the field of cybersecurity, compared to the 56 percent average found in the Middle East and double the global average (34 percent)
Q: Were the youth interested in pursuing a career in cyber security?
Christopher J Davis: Absolutely. We had tremendous response to a four-day cyber-security awareness training workshops that we conducted for a week for Khalifa University students. For example, when we held the workshop for the Khalifa University students, we had room for only 50 students but we had about 200 applicants. 
Q: Can you give some specific numbers from the survey?
• Christopher J Davis: About 66 percent of youth in the UAE are more likely than a year ago to consider a career in cybersecurity. 61 percent of young adults in the UAE have been offered the skills that prepare them to pursue a career in cybersecurity. 70 percent of young Emirati adults reported reading or hearing a news account related to cyber-attacks, compared to 48 percent globally
Shahzad Zafar: If you look at global figures, awareness of cyber security and career prospects in the area was only 34 percent compared to 72 percent in the UAE which is very impressive. That demonstrates the emphasis laid by the government, by academia and industry to bridge the cyber talent gap. In 2015 there was one million cyber security related jobs that went unfulfilled globally. That shows there are great career opportunities in the sector globally. The survey showed, however, that the UAE was a couple of steps ahead as far as awareness is concerned.
Q: Did you look into collaboration with educational institutions?
Shahzad Zafar: It wasn’t specific to educational institutions. We had two entities that helped us with this survey. One was National Cyber Security Alliance and the other Zogby Analytics which actually conducted the survey on our behalf. It was not particularly focused on a university but rather on youth and millennials across the globe that represented the age group criteria.
Q: How can the talent gap be filled?
Shahzad Zafar: That is reflected in the survey as well. Though 73 percent of the participants say they are aware of the issue, 48 percent of Emirati youth also say they need additional training to come into the workforce where they could make the internet safer and secure. Such demand for additional training was also evident in the global survey findings. 84 percent of those surveyed in the UAE are aware of the typical job responsibilities of cybersecurity professionals, compared to the 45 percent average worldwide. 
More needs to be done internationally to provide youth with the training they need to enable them to take up a cyber security related job in the public or private sector. 
Q: What were the other findings from the survey?
Shahzad Zafar: According to the survey about 58 percent said they would like to enhance their communication skills. It also showed that there is not one answer across the region. In Saudi Arabia, 70 percent of the youth said they are more interested in data analysis and in Qatar 61 percent said they are more interested in problem solving. Globally, 56 percent say they are more interested in problem solving. 
Q: Do you think collaboration between public and private sector is the key?
Christopher J Davis: I would say it is a joint public and private sector responsibility. So it will always be a joint collaborative public private sector campaign. Both industry and governments across the world could do a better job of ensuring that young people who are about to enter the job market understand what challenges and opportunities cyber security offers and where they can go for the right education. When we held the UAE Security Forum on ‘Bridging the Global Talent Gap’, we worked with a think tank that is focused on the Middle East. Government entities, educational institutions like Khalifa University and NYU Abu Dhabi, telecom providers and industry were represented in the seminar. So that was a really interesting collaborative effort that went across public and private sectors.
Shahzad Zafar: At the forum, we also had academia that has done this successfully in the US. We also had National Science Foundation from the US. We brought in people who had done this in the US government, to have a dialogue on what we collectively needed to do to help bridge the cyber talent gap. There is a final report that came out of the seminar with some concrete recommendations.
Q: Do you have any training programs for the UAE youth
Shahzad Zafar: We have launched our global Cyber Academy with that initiative. We have conducted training here for our customers in the past. We are looking forward to identifying opportunities where we can continue to integrate these specialized training classes with other academic institutions. 
Q: Do you offer internship facilities for students?
Christopher J Davis: We have developed one program with one of our entities in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We had a UAE student who had done that and had a tremendous time. Internships are very important and we have to carefully structure them. We are planning to renew this particular internship, build on its success, and find other opportunities.

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