With a rising demand for cybersecurity skills in Canada clashing against a shortage of professionals, post-secondary institutions can play a vital role in training talent, suggests new research from The Conference Board of Canada.
Over the next five years, demand for cybersecurity professionals is projected to grow by an estimated average annual rate of 2.9 per cent, the Board says, driven by the rapid digitalization of businesses and an increasing frequency of cyberattacks—which cost Canadian companies millions of dollars per attack, according to data from IBM, a figure higher than most countries in the world.
Cybersecurity offers a stable career trajectory, with some of the lowest unemployment rates of any field in North America.
Emerging technologies such as generative artificial intelligence will only push the already fervent need for cybersecurity talent in Canada, a recent report from KPMG suggests, future-proofing job security.
And on top of that, positions requiring cybersecurity skills offer a 70 per cent higher average hourly wage than all other job postings in Canada, the Board found.
Yet still the talent pipeline is too dry.
Post-secondary institutions are well-positioned to address this challenge by developing cybersecurity programs that equip their graduates with the skills required by Canada’s labour market today and in the future, according to Heather McIntosh, who serves as the Associate Director of Education and Skills for The Conference Board of Canada.
“In training the next generation of cybersecurity talent, post-secondary institutions need to continue to adopt a multidimensional approach to education that is responsive to the evolving demands of the cybersecurity landscape,” she says. “Considering the dynamic nature of this field, instilling the value of lifelong learning in students and professionals alike is paramount.”
In today’s digital era, the demand for cybersecurity talent is clear, McIntosh affirms. Thus, it is imperative for PSIs to re-evaluate and re-design current program offerings to ensure graduates are equipped with skills critical to Canada’s digital future.
“Building a future-proof cybersecurity program requires PSIs to consider several crucial elements, including curriculum adaptability and industry partnerships,” she says. “Given that the cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, curriculum must be agile and able to adapt to the shifting demands of the labour market.”
One example of an up-to-date curriculum involving industry partners is the recently launched uOttawa-IBM Cyber Range, which offers realistic cyber response training exercises to help businesses and government organizations across the country better prepare for and strengthen defences against real-world threats.
Agile and evolving, various takes on the upskilling approach are becoming increasingly common across Canada to address shortfalls in cybersecurity.
The Catalyst Cyber Accelerator at Toronto Metropolitan University, for example, is a cybersecurity-focused business accelerator in Canada. And Google, in response to the pressing need for cybersecurity professionals, launched the Google Cybersecurity Certificate as the newest addition to its Google Career Certificates program. Google is also working with Canada Learning Code and ComIT to offer scholarships and professional coaching, ensuring those with an interest in cybersecurity can put it into action.
In addition, the British Columbia Institute of Technology and Cisco Canada partnered in 2022 on the Industrial Network Cybersecurity Lab to address the global demand for cybersecurity talent. Meanwhile, CyberSci runs a series of regional cyber challenge events in major cities across Canada each year.
Since 1954, The Conference Board of Canada has been providing research for evidence-based decision making to solve Canada’s toughest problems.