We can’t afford stars in the ‘team sport’ of cybersecurity

Public sector pay scales make it difficult to retain sought-after experts in cybersecurity. But agencies hope collaboration is part of the answer. It’s not a zero-sum game, bureaucrats say.

The federal agencies responsible for cyber security say their joined-up approach is starting to pay dividends, but challenges remain around building relationships with industry, and retaining staff with sought-after specialist skills.

Senior officials from the inter-agency Australian Cyber Security Centre recognise the worldwide skills shortage in the field is its biggest challenge. The agencies represented in the ACSC run a small number of cadetships that can lead to tertiary studies and sometimes a job with the centre, and contribute to promoting science, technology, engineering and maths careers — collectively known as STEM — in high schools.

ACSC co-ordinator Clive Lines, a deputy director of the Australian Signals Directorate, said recruitment was still an issue for the government agencies because they can’t compete against private sector salaries for staff with more advanced skills.

“We actually do very well with initial recruitment levels; we have far more applicants than we could hope to actually bring in and train in a way that’s meaningful,” Lines told delegates at the ACSC conference last week.

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