Symantec Bets on Next Generation of Cyber Security Workers

In 1983, the field of Cyber Security didn't exist, but if it had, it would have prevented Matthew Broderick's character in War Games from hacking the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
In 1983, the field of cyber security didn’t exist, but if it had, it would have prevented Matthew Broderick’s character in “War Games” from hacking the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Cyber security sounds awfully complicated, and, well, dashing, doesn’t it? The type of thing a hacker-meets-James-Bond fellow might do during the day to cover expenses while he builds the next BitCoin at night?

Symantec wants you — and the young people of America — to know that not only is this career path well-paying and approachable, but also, in many cases, it doesn’t even require a college degree.

The security software giant isn’t just getting the word out, it’s launching an initiative to educate young people and train them for the field. The Symantec Cyber Career Connection (SC3) launched yesterday to address the global workforce gap in cyber security positions.A pilot of the program will start in August in New York City, Baltimore and the San Francisco Bay Area and will be implemented through a network of partners, including Year Up, NPower and LifeJourney, working in conjunction with the Symantec Foundation.

Cecily Joseph, vice president of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec Corporation, told me that the cyber security field is facing an unprecedented skills gap: 300,000 cyber security jobs are currently unfilled. Sixty thousand could be filled by those who don’t have a college degree. “The goal with SC3 is to fill that gap over the next five years,” she said.

These positions exist in every large company and do everything from help desk support through keeping networks free from spam and hackers. You’ve probably had help at one point or another from a cyber security professional; when they start, they have job titles like Help Desk Administrator. Motivated employees can move up along a compelling career path with average salaries in the $60,000 to $70,000 range. At the top of the field, Network Defense Technicians and Computer Crime Investigators can earn up to $120,000, according to Symantec. Despite the compelling salary and career path, young people in the 18- to 29-year-old range are underrepresented in this industry, as are women and people of color.

The pilot SC3 program will start off modestly, serving approximately 50 students, in order to work the kinks out of the partnerships and curriculum. Students will earn an IT certificate with a specialization in cyber security.  While the programs developed by the nonprofits vary in length, they all focus on both technical skills and soft skills — giving students resume and interview training alongside the computer skills they will need to succeed. Said Joseph, “This is high-touch training that can’t be completed online.” Following their training, students will be placed in cybersecurity internships to learn how to utilize their classroom skills on the job. Symantec will help program graduates seek jobs through its network of customers and partners, namely in the financial and government sectors. 

While the company has a robust corporate responsibility program and has always encouraged employees to volunteer in their communities, leaders at Symantec wanted a new corporate responsibility initiative that would be more impactful and in line with their core competence in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Symantec turned to the Shared Value Initiative and FSG to find the right path. Says Joseph, “The Board of Directors challenged us to look for a larger societal impact than we could have with the traditional philanthropic approach.” The Shared Value Initiative gave them that dual impact. Companies that utilize shared impact use their core competence to benefit society, creating a win-win. Nevertheless, Joseph had her work cut out for her getting buy-ins for the shared-value approach.

“When we first started, people asked: ‘Is this altruistic enough?’ People asked if we should be planting gardens instead. We still have programs in diversity and environment and will continue to support those types of things. However, if we’re really going to have an impact, we need to focus on those areas where we can add value and address a need at the same time. In addition to educating tomorrow’s workforce, this initiative provides a business opportunity by serving our customers.”

SC3 allows Symantec will help its customers stay secure and, at the same time, provide job training in a lucrative field to underserved populations. Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

Image credit: Screenshot from the movie “War Games

Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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