Canada’s biggest telco, the biggest bank and the federal government are among the backers contributing a combined $30 million to fund Ryerson Univesity’s new cyber security innovation and collaboration centre west of Toronto.
Rogers Communications, the Royal Bank and Ottawa’s FedDev Ontario agency said Friday they are helping to fund what will be called the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst centre in downtown Brampton. Located in city hall, it’s scheduled to open in November.
A not-for-profit organization owned and operated by Ryerson, the centre’s mandate is to help Canadians and businesses with training, research and education in cyber security.
Backers hope it will create skilled people to meet the shortage of IT security workers through training and certification, while an accelerator side will help encourage startups.
There will also be programs to encourage more diversity in the male-dominated cyber security field. That’s one of the reasons RBC is involved, said Laura Pezzente, the bank’s senior vice-president and CSO. About 20 per cent of the professionals in cyber security are women, she said in an interview. And while that’s up from 11 per cent five years ago, improvement is needed. “We need more focus on diversity.”
RBC also partners with the University of Waterloo and the University of Toronto to help training and research emerging threats and solutions.
Asked if industry really wants experienced staffers, not students fresh out of university, Pezzente said there’s a need for both. “We have a significant program where we bring in students from universities and colleges and we train them up. You need a mix of both because [we need] diversity of thought. It’s not just someone who’s been doing this for a long time, and they think one way. Kids coming out of university are very tech-savvy and they know a lot more than I would know in terms of new techniques.”
The $30 million in seed money breaks down like this:
- $10 million from FedDev Ontario to deliver training and certification programming, establish a cybersecurity-focused small business accelerator and support applied R&D by expanding partnerships between post-secondary institutions and the private sector;
- $10 million from Rogers for programs to educate small business leaders about cyber threats and how to address them, train young Canadians for jobs in the cybersecurity field, and provide continuous learning for the Rogers technology team to tackle new challenges in cybersecurity.
- $5 million from Royal Bank to support cybersecurity training with a focus on building a more diverse and inclusive talent pool, creating opportunities for leaders and experts to share knowledge and develop strategies, and the development of new programs to upskill RBC’s technology workers for the cybersecurity jobs of tomorrow;
- $5 million from the city of Brampton to support all elements of the Catalyst’s programming, including the physical establishment of the Catalyst’s training centre, commercial accelerator, and simulated security operations centre.
Announcement of the Catalyst was made last fall after the new provincial government turned down a request from the city to create a Ryerson campus there.
Ryerson’s main campus in Toronto is home to more than 45,300 students and 3,800 faculty. It includes computer science and engineering programs, the Privacy and Big Data Institute; a Privacy and Cybercrime institute as part of the school of business management and a Privacy By Design Centre of Excellence.
“We share the government’s goal of building the workforce of the future with the right skills to ensure Canada leads in the digital economy,” said Rogers CEO Joe Natale. “Together, with our partners, we will train the next generation of young people to support the possibilities of our increasingly connected world.”
In an interview earlier this year Charles Finlay, the centre’s executive director said it hopes to assist 60 cybersecurity companies in scaling up, provide internationally-recognized certifications to 2,200 cybersecurity professionals and offer introductory cyber security classes to over 600 people — the majority of which will come from underrepresented communities in the cybersecurity world.