Long thought of as the domain of people with specific technical skills, the cybersecurity industry welcomes people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
Demand for cyber talent in Canada is high because of the increased number and complexity of threats facing businesses and organizations of all sizes. And for employers trying to meet the growing needs of the sector, figuring out how to attract, recruit, and retain qualified cybersecurity talent is an ongoing challenge.
Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst (Catalyst) — Toronto Metropolitan University’s national centre for training, innovation and collaboration in cybersecurity — is working to solve this problem. Being closely connected to industry, government, and academia, the Catalyst is well in tune with the cyber skills that are currently in demand, the skill set that will be needed over the next 12 to 18 months, and the challenges employers are facing in meeting their talent needs. “We bridge the talent gap by helping to communicate what organizations need and working to ensure there is a supply of cyber professionals with those in-demand skills,” says Rushmi Hasham, Director, Accelerated Cybersecurity Training Program and CyberStart Canada, at the Catalyst.
To strengthen the talent supply, the Catalyst launched the Accelerated Cybersecurity Training Program (ACTP) in 2020, an innovative approach to rapid workforce development that also seeks to diversify the talent pool. “We know there is a shortage of women and racialized Canadians in cybersecurity, so ACTP is specifically designed to give these individuals, as well as others who have traditionally been under-represented in the sector, the opportunities and skills they need to launch a successful career in cybersecurity,” says Hasham. ACTP learners earn three Global Information Assurance Certifications (GIACs) within a seven-month program period, which qualifies them for entry-level positions in cyber-related jobs.
A field where transferable skills like problem-solving and critical thinking are welcome
While many may perceive cybersecurity as restricted to people with highly developed technical skills, this is not the case. “There’s no single cybersecurity persona,” says Hasham. In fact, some of the skills that employers value most highly are not technical ones. “Recent research conducted by Blueprint, a non-profit research organization and a consortium partner of the Future Skills Centre, showed that the top three skills that cybersecurity employers look for are verbal communication skills, problem-solving and critical thinking, and attention to detail,” says Hasham. “All three of these skills are present in individuals who have had a diversity of previous experiences, and ACTP graduates with those skills are highly sought after by our employer partners,” she says.
This means the field is open to virtually anyone who is interested, regardless of their professional background, education, and industry experience, including career changers. Among the individuals coming through the Catalyst’s ACTP are former teachers, engineers, social workers, dentists, pharmacists, and even chefs. “Cybersecurity is one of the most welcoming industries, and I think the more we bring in a diversity of thought and backgrounds, the more we’re able to create solutions that are as diverse as the problems that are coming at us,” says Hasham.
Access to highly qualified cyber professionals
“We invite employers to connect with us to solve their talent shortage problems and diversify their workforce – we have a pipeline of highly trained, talented and employment-ready cyber professionals coming through our program,” says Hasham.
Originally featured in Innovating Canada.