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Landing skilled security staff proving to be a challenge

The demand for skilled staff is causing some channel headaches, particularly for those looking for security experts

There can be little doubt that one of the main challenges any channel business faces right now is to get hold of the right quality staff to support growth ambitions.

Despite all the gloom and doom on the world markets and the fears that China’s economic woes might drag the rest of us back into recession there continues to be an ongoing desire by the channel to bring on board more people to help support plans for this year.

Talk to a vendor and they will reveal ambitions to increase the headcount in the teams supporting resellers and distributors, distributors will reveal a desire to get more talent to give their plans to move into growth areas more depth and resellers are also looking for people to supplement their cloud and managed services plans.

Given the customer interest in all things to do with data protection one of the main skills that can command a premium price is security.
Last summer, KPMG’s Cyber Security Academy warned of shortages in that area and recommended that the channel invested in existing staff, rather than looking to hire expensive talent.

But that strategy is itself open to problems as a result of poaching and those that gain the skills are only too aware of their importance in an industry that is short of experts.

Kenneth Fox, CEO at Channel Mechanics, has commented on the current challenges facing the industry and listed staffing issues as one of the main ones that is vexing those trying to cover their skill gaps.

“Staff costs continue to go up, poaching is rife with security one of the hardest areas to hire for. With unemployment falling it's going to get worse not better,” he said.

His advice echoed that of KPMG’s with channel firms advised to make sure they are developing their staff with an eye always on the future: “Have a pipeline of sales and pre-sales candidates ready. Work  to train, motivate, retain existing staff.”

“But ultimately it's down to leadership to inspire people - that's it - get the best people you can - better to have fewer A's than more B’s,” he added.

His final tip, which should be something of a case of practising what you preach for most resellers, is to look at the operational structure to make the best efforts to clear enough space to focus on the bigger picture.

“Free up valuable resources from operational work to focus on growing your business,” concluded Fox.

The worries about staffing issues have been picked up at various points over the course of last year and were a highlight in the most recent figures in the Report on Jobs, published by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation showed there was a strong demand for security staff.

Heath Jackson, partner in the CIO Advisory practice at KPMG, said recently that it was security skills in particular that were being looked for in the current market.

“In the wake of several high profile breaches, companies are investing heavily in their cyber security teams and demand for IT specialists surged in December,” he said.

“This hiring boom has caused a skills shortage in the sector, with recruiters struggling to find enough candidates qualified in IT security to satisfy demand,” he added.

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"We can," says management, "work with fewer people, pay less, extend hours and eliminate perks. And once we outsource the jobs, we can cut staff even more. Even better, we won't need to train anyone...."

So staff is cut yet again, training of new recruits is dropped, workers are forced to train their overseas replacements and, lo and behold, their jobs are outsourced.

And NOW management is wondering why they can't find any security experts.... Have 'em call me. I'll explain the problem in very small words they can understand..
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