President & CEO, TECHNATION Canada
Chief Security Officer, Microsoft Canada
The impact of cybercrime on the Canadian economy is measured in the billions of dollars, but so too is the economic contribution of the rapidly growing cybersecurity jobs sector. As cyber threats and cybersecurity systems continue to multiply and grow ever more advanced, the biggest question is how to fill thousands of available cybersecurity positions with appropriately skilled workers.
Cybercrime in Canada is reaching crisis levels. The federal government estimates the damage to the country’s economy somewhere north of $3 billion annually. With the cost of an individual breach or ransomware attack on a business usually measured in millions of dollars, companies — large and small — are scrambling to hire the most qualified cybersecurity experts. That’s easier said than done. Job openings in the field appear faster than people can be trained with the specialized skills needed to fill them.
“From supply chain disruptions in the private sector to ransomware attacks on governments, cybercriminals have become increasingly sophisticated and the threat landscape more diverse,” says Kevin Magee, Chief Security Officer at Microsoft Canada. “These cybersecurity challenges are compounded by a workforce shortage; there simply aren’t enough people with the cybersecurity skills needed to fill open jobs. This is a global problem. By 2025, there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs open globally, representing a 350 per cent increase over an eight-year period, so there will be no shortage of career opportunities in the field in Canada.”
The growing cybersecurity job gap and unfilled positions, is not a viable option. Angela Mondou, President and CEO of TECHNATION Canada, the leading national technology association, compares the current situation to a military with thousands of soldiers and aviators absent from the ranks during wartime. “The job gap Canadian industries are experiencing across the board means that Canada as a whole is more vulnerable to cyberattacks,” Mondou says.
Solving the talent time-to-market problem
With the demand for cybersecurity professionals doubling every year, the immediate need requires a better approach to training cyber talent. The first step is to fully leverage the cybersecurity talent we already have available in Canada. TECHNATION’s Career Ready Program, funded by the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program, is one important way to address the growing time to market challenge.
“As part of TECHNATION’s Career Ready Program, we worked collaboratively with SkyHive, who are developing some of the world’s most advanced reskilling technology based on Quantum Labour Analysis, to develop and deploy CareerFinder,” says Mondou. “CareerFinder is a first of its kind in Canada, a leading-edge digital labour market intelligence platform and unique national asset, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify critical workforce skills needed across all sectors both in the present and in the future.”
Injecting cybersecurity skills at every level
The CareerFinder platform shows over 4,000 open cybersecurity positions across Canada daily. To meet growing demand, TECHNATION is working with industry and academia to push new and innovative forms of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) to accelerate tech talent in critical areas. TECHNATION has also partnered with Microsoft Canada to pilot the Explore internship program, which helps students from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds to realize career pathways into the digital workforce and cybersecurity.
TECHNATION has been advising on Lassonde School of Engineering at York University’s work-integrated degree program in Digital Technologies, a first in Canada. Students earn a salary while working with the same employer throughout the four-year degree and 20 per cent of their student worktime is allocated for academic learning — delivered in intensive, year-round blocks. This program is expected to produce many cybersecurity analysts and other cyber professionals. It’s an innovative program to expedite the connection to talent between industry and academia to address the ongoing cybersecurity talent shortage. “We need more bold thinking like we see at Lassonde. Canadian post-secondary institutions must start modernizing curricula with WIL and closer industry partnerships now or we will continue to fall behind as a global tech leader.” says Mondou.
“Education and skilling-focused programs and tools like Explore and Career Ready are helping to equip and empower the next generation of digital leaders with the essential skills our economy needs to thrive in the future,” Magee says. “A challenge of this scale is significant, and to address it, tech companies like ours, governments, academia, and business will need to work together to provide skilling opportunities both to skill-up our own employees and to grow the cybersecurity workforce by attracting new people to the profession.”
Rising cybercrime presents a tremendous challenge to Canadian businesses and government, but the skyrocketing demand for cybersecurity professionals also presents a tremendous economic opportunity. TECHNATION and its partners are hard at work finding innovative ways to meet this challenge and opportunity in ways that benefit Canada, Canadian businesses, and Canadian workers.