Rima Aristocrat is the founder of the Willis Cybersecurity Academy, the Veteran Friendly Transition Program, TeKnoWave Inc., with a focus on indigenous programs and primary founder of the Women in Technology Scholarship.
For over 150 years, Willis College has served Canada’s Capital Region by training the next generation of healthcare, business and cyber/network security professionals. Rima Aristocrat, President and CEO of Willis College, pioneered a new approach to skills training that engages prospective employers at the program development stage, injecting specific industry content right into the formation of the student’s diploma program. By tailoring diploma programs to specific industry needs, Willis College and the Willis Cybersecurity Academy have become a source of new talent that is helping to feed Canada’s largest IT hub in Ottawa and Kanata. Students use millions of dollars of proprietary equipment from industry partners such as Sophos, Fortinet and Check Point, which enables them to be job ready the moment they graduate, while at the same time positioning Willis College as the paramount talent pipeline for these growing companies and more.
What crucial role of education and training plays to address the skills shortage and to cope with unfilled specialized cybersecurity roles?
This is an area with a serious problem. We have too many universities in Canada running cybersecurity programs out of computer science and computer engineering schools with no background in the people, policy, and business aspects of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is not computer science though we may use such people within our team. In order to make the best decisions about cybersecurity challenges and solutions, we need to think not only about how we are training, but also about who we are training.
As industry and academia turns its collective attention to addressing the talent gap in cyber and network security, it is vital that we broaden the scope of who can be trained for this field.
Women, men, veterans, and individuals who are currently working in completely unrelated fields can be retrained for these important roles. Our industry needs dedicated, hardworking, well-trained people from all walks of life to fill the gap.
It needs solid partnerships between experts and leaders in cybersecurity, academia, government and the community at large and consistent implementation of successful skills training models. Willis College and the Willis Cyber Security Academy are ready to help them make the leap forward.
Who is not and should be involved in cybersecurity education?
The digital divide is a serious epidemic for women. Millions of women are being denied lucrative careers due to lack of access to technological skills training.
Meanwhile, researchers and industry-focused publications are decrying cybersecurity talent shortages. 1 in 10 women hold cyber roles in Canada. We can change that. The military wants to increase the number of women enrolling in Canada’s Cyber Defence, and we are working with them to help do so.
But to do that, we need to know why women aren’t joining cybersecurity training programs in the first place.
Calian Ltd. and the Veteran Friendly Transition Program have teamed up to help figure out why. We can’t afford to have another generation of women excluded from an entire industry just because there’s a perception that cyber is only open to men. Now is the time to engage women in Canada’s Cyber Defence. To find out more about this initiative, visit:
What role do our veterans play in cybersecurity?
How about our veterans? How can we best transition them from military work to cybersecurity leadership roles, allowing them to maintain meaningful and gainful careers after their military services? Who can better defend our country than our veterans? Veterans are familiar with offensive and defensive tactics that underpin the cybersecurity industry; they come with secret clearance and are committed to protecting their country.
For the last 5 years, this is exactly what Willis College has been doing. We have done so in partnership with global leaders in cybersecurity, committed members from our veteran community, with our veteran students and developed pilot program by veterans for veterans: Veteran Friendly Transition Program www.vftp.ca piloted from Willis College. We have implemented scholarships such as “Women in Technology and “A Soldier’s Hero” to allow new talent to access quality training.
What can colleges like Willis College do to address the skills gap now and in the future?
Technical training curriculums must include both business and cybersecurity leadership skills and instructors must be trained, certified, and mentored by award-winning subject matter experts in the field.
These instructors must encourage students to complete both their academic and industry-recognized certifications, prepare them for job interviews, and learn about specific organizations they are applying for and be flexible to accommodate companies’ hiring needs.
Training must lead to approved diplomas and industry-recognized certifications in the shortest possible period of time, but instructors must also prepare students be flexible and adaptable and to learn new skills quickly as they emerge in the field.
We must also prepare students for an environment in which cybersecurity leadership is an organization-wide responsibility. Decades ago, it made sense to silo sales, marketing, operations, and security expertise in separate programs. In 2018, these silos are outdated, and ultimately each stream should include security as part of their mandate. Business schools should include cybersecurity as a component of their MBA programs, and Cyber programs should include business, communications and cybersecurity leadership training. Only with these combined will we truly be in a position to adopt robust security procedures across an organization.
What does Willis College do to close the digital divide?
At Willis College, we are committed to closing the digital divide not by just talking about it, but by actually doing something about it. We do so by continuously piloting innovative training, abiding by and improving best practices and adapting programs based on lessons we learn through their delivery, our instructors’ and students’ field experience, and our network of industry leaders. For the last 5 years, Willis College has partnered with global leaders in cybersecurity from California, the United Kingdom and Israel, committed members from our veteran community, leading local and national Indigenous organizations, and subject-matter experts from curriculum development and employment services.
Our recently established multivendor Willis Cybersecurity Academy, our CyberTrust initiative, and our Veteran Friendly Transition Program (VFTP) have been recognized worldwide.
Willis College’s 66-week Cybersecurity Analyst program is the only Canadian program recognized by DND and the Canadian Armed Forces.
On the cybersecurity leadership side, we have incorporated global award-winning author Dr. Mansur Hasib’s best-selling book, Cybersecurity Leadership: Powering the Modern Organization. Dr. Hasib has also trained our cybersecurity instructors in delivering his 2-week courses on this same topic as part of our Cybersecurity Analyst diploma program.
The cybersecurity world is primarily people-powered and in a state of perpetual innovation. Human problems call for a human solution, as well as a capacity for flexibility and constant adaptation to new realities. As industry and academia turns its collective attention to addressing the talent gap in cyber and network security, it is vital that we broaden the scope of who can be trained for this field. Willis College and the Willis Cyber Security Academy are ready to help them make the leap forward. I would recommend and welcome everyone to look at the best practice model currently unfolding through our Willis College, Willis CyberTrust, VFTP, and TeKnoWave Indigenous Education Academy partnership, and to use it as the Canadian best practice model.