Yesterday (16 June) marked Youth Day. On this day, South Africans recognises the role of the youth in our country.

Among the highest unemployment rates were recorded for the youth (those aged between 15 and 24) at 63,3% and those aged between 25 and 34 at 41,3%. reports an article by Fin24.

There might be a career choice yet to be tapped into to help the South African youth.

“There is already a massive shortage of cybersecurity professionals in South Africa, and globally there’s a shortage of several million,” says Doros Hadjizenonos, regional sales manager at Fortinet.

Despite the clear skills gap, South African universities and technical colleges just aren’t training enough new young professionals. The shortage is also exacerbated by the brain-drain, with cybersecurity a sought-after skill internationally. That means every cybersecurity company and large organisation with an in-house IT department should be working to increase the knowledge pool, Hadjizenonos believes.

“Enterprises need to come to the party with internship programmes to get people into the system and invest in them by bringing them up through the ranks. A lot of organisations are cutting their training budgets, but it’s critical to maintain training in the latest technologies, and for people with experience to take on interns and ramp them up.”

Fortinet took action last year by making its self-paced cybersecurity training courses available for free to address skills gap and develop a diverse cybersecurity workforce.

The idea of a future-proof job with global opportunities makes cybersecurity a smart career choice for ambitious and self-motivated youngers. “We’re especially trying to encourage women to enter the industry because they generally have a calm, analytical nature, and I’ve seen some really top female technology resources,” Hadjizenonos says.

“Amidst the challenge of limited skills, there is a pressing need to empower women within the cybersecurity space. With far more males than females currently in the industry, security is a sector that would benefit from not just volume, but diversity,” says Anna Collard, senior vice-president: content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa.

In Africa women have less access to internet-based technologies than men, they have fewer opportunities, they are even more limited in their ability to move out from under poverty. As the world continues to move into automation, women will be the most affected as their roles are replaced by machines. Change has to start now, it has to start at home, and it has to be carried through into education.

“According to research, women of colour are 34% more likely to be targeted by online hate speech than their white counterparts, and a huge percentage of African girls are concerned about their online safety,” says Collard. “We must give them the tools, training and confidence they need to prepare for this online vitriol, and protect themselves.”

KnowBe4 currently works with government and other leading industry players on the Gov-X innovation challenge to promote skills development across the country. This collaboration with senior security professionals and enterprises is allowing for younger people to connect with mentoring opportunities and to really understand what the cybersecurity industry truly offers.

“It is a fascinating industry to be in,” says Collard. “The perception that you have to be a math genius or a technology wizard to thrive in security is just that – perception. The truth is that it requires the ability to think laterally, to collaborate and to be willing to learn. These are boxes anyone can tick, given the right opportunity.”