Google has started an Australian cyber security hiring push in a move to bolster the tech giant's local skill base at a time when specialist talent is short.
The Federal Government’s Cyber Security Strategy released in 2016 showed the number of high school graduates commencing tertiary study in ICT has halved in the last decade, leaving a shortage in candidates for cyber security positions.
In an interview with the ABC, Google Chrome head of security, Parisa Tabriz, outlined the difficulties of finding the right mix of people.
"I think finding the right people who have the skills of someone who can hack into a system but ultimately want to make it more secure and not use those skills for bad and are willing to also work in a big software company — it's hard to find that intersection of good people," she said.
Tabriz said the local market had thus far been a good recruiting ground for the software giant due to the quality - if not quantity of applicants.
"Sydney's actually been a really good recruiting spot for some security people because there's good universities that really help train cyber security professionals," she said.
As reported by ARN, University of Technology Dean of the UTS Business School, Professor Roy Green, outlined the country’s unique problem of training - and retaining - top tech talent nationwide.
“Our top graduates and employees in some of our leading technology firms and start-ups are being lured away from Australian shores,” he said.
“They are attracted to Silicon Valley, to Facebook and Google, with $200,000 starting salaries, sign-on bonuses and stock options - it’s a very competitive market.”
Now it appears some of those high paid jobs are coming to Australia leaving cyber security - and other in-demand IT skills - even more in vogue.
Coupled with this is the challenge of providing appropriate tertiary courses to address shortcomings in the industry leaves the tech industry with a problem at both ends of the training schedule, according to Green.
“Universities are introducing different schemes to enhance STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] skills but we can only work with what we’ve got,” he said.
“The real issue is around how much the country is investing in growing STEM skills within the schooling system.”
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said in June 2016 that he was pushing to once again make STEM skills compulsory in the senior stages of high school - currently, in NSW and Victoria, mathematics and science are only compulsory till year 10.
"In my generation, you had to do maths or science to complete high school," Turnbull said at the time. "We've got to get back to that and ensure that everyone is very literate in those STEM subjects. Science, maths, technology – that's the future.
"More universities are requiring, and they should all require, in due course, that maths or science should be a prerequisite school subject to have completed to go on to university. It’s one of the areas we’ve gone backwards."
“We are way behind where we need to be,” he said. “The education debate is now focused on skills which is a good thing but from our perspective there are just not enough young people getting these opportunities.”