Mastercard and Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst at Ryerson University have launched two training programs, funded by a C$1.25 million investment from Mastercard, designed to foster inclusion and diversity within the Canadian cybersecurity sector.
The Catalyst is a national leader in offering diversity-focused cybersecurity training programs, and delivers high-impact programming for women, new Canadians, displaced workers, and BIPOC professionals.
The first program, called Mastercard Emerging Leaders in Cyber Initiative (ELCI), is a program which supports the development of female-identifying executive leaders in the cybersecurity industry.
The second, the Mastercard Cyber Range Capstone Program, is an experiential program which provides diverse learners enrolled in the Catalyst’s Accelerated Cybersecurity Training Program with more hands-on cybersecurity training.
Canada is facing a critical shortage of skilled workers in the cybersecurity sector, and women and people of colour continue to be under-represented in the industry.
“We are creating meaningful action to enable underrepresented demographic groups to further their career aspirations in cybersecurity,” said Sasha Kristic, president of Mastercard in Canada. The aim of Mastercard’s investment is to help address these gaps through the new training programs.
This partnership with Catalyst is the most recent in a series of cybersecurity-related investments Mastercard has made in Canada. One of these includes a C$510 million investment in its new global Intelligence and Cyber Centre of Excellence located in Vancouver. The Centre focuses on accelerating innovation in digital and cyber security, data, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IOT).
The cybersecurity sector is growing, but faces talent shortages, according to panellist Dr. Atefeh Mashatan, founder and director of the Cybersecurity Research Lab (CRL) at Ryerson, at the Cybersecure Catalyst announcement event. Due to the rise in remote work, she said businesses are putting “very sensitive assets” on networks for business functionality.
“Functionality is great, however these assets are very attractive targets for hackers,” she said.
The increase of security breaches and cyber attacks has led to an increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals. According to data from Check Point Research, businesses witnessed 50 per cent more attacks per week in 2021 compared to 2020.
Mashatan said the talent shortage may also be due to the fact that stereotypes and doubts about what careers look like in the cybersecurity industry still exist.
“It’s not the nerd in the hoodie who cracks the password,” she said. “But unfortunately, we are still finding that stereotype.”
According to Mashatan, only about 20 to 30 per cent of critical cybersecurity jobs require extreme technical skills; the remaining roles require more business knowledge and skills.
In addition, Michèle Mullen, director general of partnerships and risk mitigation at the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, said the greatest factor contributing to the workforce shortage is the lack of familiarity with cybersecurity careers.
She said that fixing this problem has to start with education, and encouragement at a young age. According to Mullen, parents will often encourage their children to aspire to be a doctor or lawyer because those careers are lucrative and well-understood.
“We need to change the thought process of parents, teachers, and youth to ensure that careers in cybersecurity make that list. To do that, we need to develop and provide tools for guidance and career counsellors to increase the understanding of various technical and non-technical jobs involved in cybersecurity occupations.”
Solutions to this shortage include companies offering cybersecurity training and certification opportunities to their existing employees to open new career paths. In addition, Mashatan said companies could collaborate with academia to design new programs that will better prepare new graduates for jobs that the industry needs.
With programs such as the two launching at Ryerson, she said, “These entry-level employees can be better prepared for the type of jobs in cybersecurity that traditionally they are not considered for.”