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Addressing the cybersecurity skills gap with higher education

There is an exponential growth in the field of cyber security over the past decade. At the same time, there is no simultaneous growth in the workforce in this field. But at this point in time, it has become quite obvious. According to the National labor Markets report, the number of skilled and qualified workers is not enough to keep up with the demand. This has disrupted worldwide including Europe.

The CyberSecurity Higher Education Database helped ENISA to finally gather data in order to predict future trends. There is a key report that tells that the number of programs to train the students in cyber security has been in the process of growth. The graph predicts the higher exponential. The resultant findings thus tell that graduates in Cyber security will be double in the next two to three years. But still, there is the problem of the gender issue. It tells only 20% of the female students are enrolled.

The Report, also deep-dives into the policies and approaches adopted by the Member States. It classifies them according to ENISA National Capabilities Assessment Framework (NCAF). Awareness, training challenges, and exercises are part of the framework. Apart from this, Europe listed down the actions that will help to increase the quality of the candidates. Therefore to increase the cyber security workforce it is very much essential to build the skills that are needed with the highest demand in the job market.

The Other Research on This Report

The Internet has been one of the greatest winners in the pandemic of the previous year, with traffic and transactions reaching record highs in 2020. As expected, the amount of malicious attacks and activity has increased as well. “Cybercriminals are innovating and stepping up their attacks at an alarming rate,” says INTERPOL Secretary-General Jürgen Stock, “taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty created by COVID-19’s precarious social and economic circumstances.”

This is bad news at a time when projections suggest that up to 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs would be unfilled this year. Is it possible that we’re losing the war? Our best defense is to upskill individuals already working in cybersecurity and entice newcomers to join, but programs and plans are fragmented and insufficient.

We spoke with Dr. Edward Humphreys, a world-renowned IT security expert, on concerns about the cyber-skills shortage and its possible consequences for business and society. Dr. Humphreys serves on a variety of ISO and IEC committees, including ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information Technology, subcommittee SC 27, Information Security, Cybersecurity, and Privacy Protection, which has over 200 published standards and another 77 in the works. He is widely referred to be the “father” of the ISO/IEC 27001 family of standards for information security management systems because of his expertise in the sector.

In a nutshell, recommendations

The following are some suggestions for bridging the cyber security skills gap:

  1. Increase the number of students enrolled in cybersecurity programs and, eventually, the number of graduates through diversifying the curriculum, education format, and providing scholarships in higher education institutions (HEIs).
  2. Support a unified approach across government, industry, and higher education institutions by adopting a common framework for cybersecurity roles, competencies, skills, and knowledge, such as the European Cyber security Skills Framework, and encouraging the development of cyber security skills, challenges, and competitions.
  3. With the help of European authorities and EU-funded projects, create synergies among Member States’ cyber security measures.
  4. Encourage examination of cyber security industry demands and trends by identifying metrics that can be used to estimate the scope of the problem and design appropriate solutions.
  5. Support the usage and promotion of Cyber HEAD in order to better understand the current state of cyber security higher education in the EU, track trends, and track development.

The Target Community in the Research

  • EU Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
  • Business and industry Member States and
  • European Institutions are interested in cybersecurity capabilities and the role of higher education.
  • The academic community and researchers.


ENISA takes a number of steps to encourage and strengthen the development of cybersecurity skills and competence across industries and at all levels, from non-experts to highly technical specialists.

These activities are being taken in order to comply with the EU’s Digital Education Action Plan. ENISA promotes and analyses cybersecurity higher education in the EU in order to address the present cybersecurity labor shortage.

The Actions in Need

The following are some examples of actions:


The ad hoc working group on skills framework’s organized approach, which will shortly offer a framework capable of harmonizing cybersecurity education, training, and workforce development and concepts.

CyberHEAD is a database of cyber security higher education.

Awareness efforts, such as European Cybersecurity Month, are part of the European Cybersecurity Challenge (ECSC) (ECSM)

The ad hoc working group on cybersecurity hygiene and awareness is for community stakeholders to brainstorm and create ideas and solutions to raise the common level of cybersecurity hygiene and awareness in the endeavor to modify behaviors that secure the EU digital market.



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