There is a security skills shortage, and “it’s going to get a lot worse,” delegates at the Gartner Security Summit were told yesterday by Nick Tate, chairman of AusCERT and CIO at the University of Queensland.

During the CIO/CSO (chief security officer) panel session, Tate pointed to the drop in entry to tertiary IT courses, which will flow through to a reduction in the number of graduates in another year or two.

“I don’t feel particularly confident [about the supply of skilled staff],” he added, although in the longer term any shortages are likely to attract people to careers in IT security. He also noted the growth in interest in double degrees such as Law/IT as an entry point to an IT career.

His fellow panellists agreed that shortages exist.

“The industry is suffering a shortage,” said Gary Blair, head of security practice at National Australia Bank, but security people seek employers that are serious about the area, such as banks. Blair is looking to develop existing staff and to hire selected individuals to round out the organisation’s skill sets.

“I’m slightly nervous,” said Jonathan Palmer, CIO at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about the security skills issue. However, he is “a bit worried about accreditation schemes because they can turn into portability passports,” but suggests one way to keep staff is to engage them as fully as possible in the organisation so they identify as an ‘ABS person’ as much as an ‘IT security person'”.

The writer is a NAB shareholder.