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6 Takeaways from Canada’s First Cybersecurity Skills & Workforce Development Summit

There are currently about one million cybersecurity positions unfilled, and that number is expected to increase to 1.5 million by 2019; this is both a challenge and an opportunity.

To help mitigate that situation, ONB/CyberNB hosted Canada’s first Cybersecurity Summit. CyberSmart 2017 focused on the creation of a national skills and workforce development strategy for Canada.

The Summit brought together 300 delegates from across Canada and the U.S. representing government, industry and academia, including university, college and high school students. Attendees focused on identifying key areas for curriculum and professional development as well as continuous learning.

The energy at the Summit was more than we could have possibly hoped for. Here are our six big takeaways from the two-day event:

Collaborate and Share

The big theme was clear: collaboration. The sharing of both successes and what we need to move forward. Dialogue was thoughtful and full of purpose. Throughout the Summit there were a lot of conversations, and a real desire to form a national agenda by working together.

Understand, Prepare, and Leverage What Works

Each of the four keynotes a struck cord with delegates:

  • Fred Kaplan, best-selling author of Dark Territory, created an excellent picture of why we need to think differently about cyberattacks and how we need to prepare for them;
  • Namir Anani, President of Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) took that theme further, speaking about cybersecurity being a competitive advantage in a hyper-connected economy;
  • Rodney Petersen, Director of the US National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) provided an excellent background of the framework already in use in the United States; and
  • Peter Henschel, Deputy Commissioner – Specialized Policing Services, highlighted many key areas including the borderless nature of cybercrime that we now face.

Rounding out our keynotes, Nathan Beach of AWS, Ken Taylor of ISCPA, and Colleen Merchant of Public Safety Canada all presented supporting findings. In the end, our speakers underscored the importance of collaboration to create a pan-Canadian framework for cybersecurity.

Embrace Differing Perspectives

In the Cyber Partners Forum hosted by our own Allen Dillon, the conversation was dynamic, interesting, and filled with diverse opinions. Sandy Bird of IBM, Mike Morris of Root9B, Alex Vau of Mandiant, Andre Boucher of CSE Canada, and Ron Fabela of Dragos shared their thoughts and opinions on the way forward.

An interesting theme that emerged from this panel included the need to ensure skills development for non-STEM roles (e.g. Communications Practitioners, Sociologists, Psychologists, etc.).

Celebrate Successes

cybersecurity cybersmart 2017 summit With 300 delegates convened, we wanted to take this opportunity to recognize both people and organizations for their industry contributions. After all, what’s a gathering without a celebration! Over the course of two days we recognized and celebrated:

  • Ali Ghorbani, Director of the Canadian Institute of Cybersecurity, for his vision and leadership in the region’s cybersecurity ecosystem;
  • Natalia Stakhanova, Founder of CyberLaunch Academy for both her cybersecurity research and the work she has done to bring the Academy to middle school students;
  • Rodney Petersen, for the work that his organization has done to develop their education framework and his leadership in collaboration for the betterment of the workforce;
  • Jamie Rees, for his work with ICTC to create and foster the CyberTitan program in Canada thereby demonstrating to kids the value and importance of developing these unique skills they can carry through life;
  • Sisler High School (Winnipeg) for their contribution to bringing CyberPatriot to Canada and developing the CyberTitan Program;
  • Brian Gray (New Brunswick’s Dept. of Education and Early Childhood Development – EECD) and William Kierstead (Opportunities NB – CyberNB) for their collaboration in a multi-departmental environment that has significant positive implications for skills development;
  • The Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) for their work in training Aboriginal workers in software testing tools and techniques;
  • Blue Spurs, a New Brunswick IT company, for their dedication, leadership, and collaboration with the EECD and the CyberNB team to develop specialized IoT kits for New Brunswick high school students; and
  • John Kershaw, Director of CyberSmart and former Deputy Minister with the Department of Education, for his tireless pursuit and leadership in the field of education.

In addition to the awards, delegates enjoyed the CyberTitan showcase with students and teachers who had the opportunity to take part in the program this past spring.

Capture Key Themes and Report Them at the Summit

It was always our intention to capture key themes and content coming out of the Summit and to provide those findings to delegates. We also felt it noteworthy to provide people with a high-level overview of the discussion at the Summit. While formal reporting is still being prepared, here are some highlights:

  • Knowing the threat and the opportunity, we must protect Canadians and seize the economic opportunities;
  • There is a need for modern IT classrooms and infrastructure – this is a continually changing landscape that must be planned for;
  • The call for transformational change as this is not business as usual;
  • The continued need for collaboration between industry, academia, and government;
  • The need for a pan-Canadian Strategy; and
  • We need leadership now at all levels in the system.

Inclusion

We wanted the Summit to be a truly collaborative effort; and ended up with excellent representation from industry, government, and academia. From industry, we had startups to large multinationals. Government presence touched all three levels. And from academia, we had representation from middle and high school teachers and administration as well as post-secondary institutions. What was unique to our Summit was the inclusion of high school, university and college students. The input, ideas, and questions presented by students were second to none. Seeing students weigh in on their future careers was inspiring and will be a feature of our plans going forward.

Finally, CyberNB is happy to report that CyberSmart 2018 has already been confirmed. Mark your calendars for April 17 and 18, 2018. Visit CyberNB.ca for details on next year’s summit as they are added.

Cover image: Author Fred Kaplan speaks at CyberSmart 2017