The cybersecurity sector presents lucrative opportunities for young Saudis
As the Kingdom progresses toward its digital transformation goals, it is prioritizing cybersecurity to protect critical systems and infrastructures. As a result, cybersecurity professionals are in hot demand; according to a LinkedIn report released in January, four out of the top 10 fastest-growing job roles in Saudi Arabia were in the cybersecurity, data analysis and software development fields.
This presents an opportunity for ambitious, tech-savvy Saudi youth to seize an exciting and lucrative career path in the field of cybersecurity. And to help them achieve their potential, proactive efforts by stakeholders across the industry — the government, companies and educational institutions alike — will be vital.
Mobilizing young talents in the cybersecurity industry is especially critical as the global sector faces a gap of over 2.5 million unfilled jobs, according to Microsoft. This figure highlights a significant challenge that must be addressed to promote the industry’s growth and the cyber safety of individuals, companies and governments worldwide.
The Saudi government is doing its part to close the gap, implementing initiatives to foster innovation in the cybersecurity field and create an infrastructure that enables companies to bridge the skill gap in the sector. For instance, the Saudi government is investing more than $1.2 billion to improve the digital skills of 100,000 Saudi youth across forward-facing fields, including cybersecurity, programming, artificial intelligence and video games programming.
Saudi Arabia also has a dedicated National Cybersecurity Authority that constantly launches initiatives to improve the country’s cybersecurity posture, such as the CyberIC program, which will provide cybersecurity training to 5,000 Saudis. Such efforts are why the Kingdom ranked second in the global cybersecurity index within the World Competitiveness Yearbook for 2022.
The government’s broader strategies of Saudization and female empowerment within Saudi Vision 2030 are also helping bridge the cybersecurity gap.
The government is making a concerted effort to boost female participation in the workforce, which will contribute to closing the gap as more Saudi women take up technical and leadership roles in cybersecurity. The Kingdom has already made great strides in this regard, with Saudi women making up 45 percent of the cybersecurity workforce in the country, according to the Saudi Federation of Programming and Drones.
In addition, with increasing cybersecurity training courses and university degrees becoming available, Saudi youth with a penchant for cybersecurity have an amazing opportunity today to build their reservoir of skills and knowledge in the field.
It is worth noting that today, you don’t necessarily need a four-year university degree to land a job in cybersecurity; instead, young people can opt to go through levels of certifications to gain relevant skills and become employable experts. This flexibility makes cybersecurity an appealing career path for the youth, along with the fact that it is a fast-paced and ever-changing field where every day is a learning curve.
For their part, companies also need to help close the jobs gap and adopt strategies to recruit and retain cybersecurity talent by rolling out exciting internships for young talents, partnering with local universities to provide mentorship and training programs, providing regular training, skilling and reskilling for employees, and building a company culture that offers ample opportunities for both horizontal and vertical growth.
Crucial to large and small organizations, the demand for cybersecurity talent will only increase from here, making the sector remarkably future-proof and market resilient. As such, the cybersecurity industry offers excellent prospects for tech-savvy Saudi youth to become market-leading professionals and do their part to secure the Kingdom’s digital transformation.
• Fahad Al-Suhaimi, country director for Saudi Arabia, Help AG