Solving the cyber talent shortage one graduate at a time

The world needs more cyber security experts—about 1.8 million more, according to a 2018 study from the Toronto Finance International (TFI) and Deloitte. And as cyber criminals become more sophisticated, Canadian institutions are urgently looking to attract the people with creative solutions that are needed to help protect our most sensitive information. Seneca College, the TFI and a working group of financial institutions are hoping a new program can provide a made-in-Canada solution for helping to close the cyber-talent gap.

Ranjan Bhattacharya, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering Technology at Seneca College, is at the helm of a new post-graduate certificate program. The Cybersecurity and Threat Management Graduate Certificate program which, according to Bhattacharya, will give mature students and recent graduates the industry standard skills in cyber security that can connect them to the emerging job opportunities in the financial sector and beyond.

More talent needed

"The business risks associated with large scale, sophisticated cyber-attacks have led Canadian industries to dramatically increase the number of cybersecurity specialists in their organizations," said Bhattacharya. "At the current time our program is unique in the Ontario postsecondary system—both in the development process and the level of credential."

Starting in January, the inaugural class will start with 30 students, but with plans to expand based on increasing demand. Dividing time between Seneca's new Centre for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship at the Newham campus and their even newer class space in the heart of Toronto's Financial District, full-time and part-time students will learn from industry experts with long careers in the field—both inside and outside the classroom.

READ: How TD data professionals are lending their expertise to this non-profit to promote lifelong learning

Courses with titles like "Ethical Hacking and Vulnerability Tests" and "Security for Cloud and the Internet of Things" may sound daunting to a layperson, but Bhattacharya is quick to point out that they're after more than just students with a tech background.

"The program is a new way of thinking about cyber talent. Because cybersecurity-related technology advances so quickly, it is helpful to think more about those transferable skills, rather than focusing solely on their technical skills."

It's exactly what Julian Marin had in mind. Marin has been working for 15 years in cybersecurity and is currently an Associate Vice President of Cyber Fraud Threat Management at TD. Marin helped build the curriculum for the program as part of a working group representing Canada's five largest banks, along with OMERS, Sun Life Financial and the TMX.

Solving the cyber talent shortage

"There's already a shortage of cyber talent in Canada," said Marin. "With this program, TD's focus was ensuring that the curriculum had a practical focus that would allow us to hire from the program, and have the students be able to hit the ground running."

Marin recognizes the opportunities that exist for those recent graduates who decide to pursue a career in cyber security. "When I started my career, cybersecurity didn't exist; we called it information security and it was very niche. Today, cybersecurity is a key priority for virtually every business and an in-demand career."

For TD, the goal is to get more talented people working to protect its customers. Recently TD opened its new TD Fusion Centre, a new state-of the-art facility located in downtown Toronto. The Centre brings together a multidisciplinary team representing critical functions from across the bank that are focused on helping to improve detection and prevention of enterprise threats, proactively identifying new threats and better enabling an incident response capability for the enterprise.

It's a very real potential destination for graduates of the program as TD looks to bolster its pipeline of cybersecurity talent and better protect its technology and customers. In the meantime, the budding cyber experts of Seneca's cybersecurity and threat management program have a new training ground to hone their skills in the ever-evolving fight against cyberattacks.