The State Worker

States struggle to hire cybersecurity experts

Caltrans Transportation Management Center operator Steven Holloway monitors traffic on Southern California freeways on a large electronic display and small computer screens in Los Angeles.
Caltrans Transportation Management Center operator Steven Holloway monitors traffic on Southern California freeways on a large electronic display and small computer screens in Los Angeles. Associated Press file

State governments, which routinely handle tax records, Social Security numbers and other sensitive data, are struggling to hire cybersecurity experts with the skills to ward off data breaches and stymie hackers.

A recent report by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers says uncompetitive pay, a shortage of qualified candidates and slow hiring processes are among the reasons.

Computer-security experts are particularly difficult to find, the report says. When asked what skills are most challenging to attract and retain, two-thirds of state IT managers surveyed said “security,” followed by 57 percent who said, “programming and support.”

A run on retirement by an entire generation of baby boomers has exacerbated the shortage of qualified IT staff, with 86 percent of managers reporting they are having trouble filling vacant tech positions.

As an alternative, the association’s report says, nearly half of the state information officers surveyed said they planned to “expand outsourcing.” Nearly 25 percent said they will “maintain the status quo.” Less than 10 percent planned to “increase state IT staff.”

Some states are fighting back by overhauling their recruiting efforts, offering IT internships to high school and college students and flexible work hours, according to the report, and expanding telework programs, among other programs aimed at attracting and keeping staff.

  Comments