Senior Director, Digital Economy, Technology & Innovation, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Director of Innovation and Policy at Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst
Sumit Bhatia, Director of Innovation and Policy at Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, discusses how future-forward talent strategies can help address the cybersecurity challenge.
In a time of impending stagflation and economic volatility, where businesses and personal lives have shifted increasingly online, cybersecurity has become one of our country’s most pressing concerns. To combat this growing threat, we have an urgent need for cyber talent across both technical and non-technical domains. Yet Canada’s cybersecurity industry faces a critical talent gap. With technology becoming fully integrated into nearly every aspect of life and digital infrastructure across all sectors growing rapidly, the threat level has risen and become more sophisticated. Against this backdrop and with the growing competition for cyber talent globally, the ongoing talent shortage across Canada is hitting critical levels.
In an interview with Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, Senior Director, Digital Economy, Technology and Innovation and Cyber. Right. Now. (CRN) campaign policy lead at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Sumit Bhatia, Director of Innovation and Policy at Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, a member of the CRN campaign, discusses how future-forward talent strategies can help address this challenge while providing Canada with the opportunity to be a global centre for cyber talent.
Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia: The data for cybersecurity talent seems alarming. Can you share some of the numbers and what they tell us?
Sumit Bhatia: The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security reported some alarming statistics: 82% of employers in Canada have reported a shortage in qualified talent and 71% believe that this shortage has already caused measurable damage to their organization’s cybersecurity readiness. There are 25,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in Canada alone and 3.5 million worldwide. These numbers will continue to grow in light of current geopolitical issues, the protection of our critical infrastructure assets and the privacy concerns of citizens.
Bahr-Gedalia: What major challenges does the talent pipeline face?
Bhatia: It faces two major challenges — a talent supply that’s failing to keep up with market demand and a lack of diverse talent within that supply. While this may seem deeply troubling, the good news is that Canada has incredible talent, resources and intention to solve these pressing issues. Canada’s strength, as we know, lies in its diversity and with that comes an extraordinary amount of talent waiting to be utilized, re-skilled and up-skilled. We need a strategic and collaborative way to access it, at the heart of which lies how we reorient our approaches to teaching, recruitment and pathway development. We must be intentional in developing collaboration models between our private, public and academic sectors that focus on the cross-pollination of ideas around nurturing talent and creating talent that can be applied across sectors. This will allow us to build reliable talent pipelines for the future that consider the competencies of our existing talent pool and create programming that expands their opportunities to enter and progress through this domain across all sectors.
Bahr-Gedalia: The global competition for talent is fierce. It’s a borderless challenge and opportunity. Is there any country we can learn from?
Bhatia: In fairness to Canada, very few of our global peers have been able to address this issue in a deliberate and coordinated way. We have drawn some inspiration from the United Kingdom, which has seen long-term success with a skills-based visa program that creates pathways and benefits for immigrants in talent-shortage industries. The Israeli cybersecurity industry is another model of success where we see a strategic approach to cross-sector collaboration further supported by funding and procurement from all levels of the private and public sector.
At the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, we’ve developed a range of programs to rescale and upscale learners from diverse backgrounds through the ACTP program, while working closely with a range of industry partners to create access to employment opportunities. Additionally, we’ve developed informed metrics of success for future teaching and recruitment and scenario-based testing mechanisms via our Cyber Range, that can be used to validate skills and competencies in an applied way.
Bahr-Gedalia: How can we ensure we apply diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles in our cybersecurity workforce strategies — an area the Canadian Chamber’s Cyber. Right. Now. campaign is also amplifying and advocating for?
Bhatia: First and foremost, we must recognize that cybersecurity education is not limited to the classroom and that the cybersecurity workforce encompasses everyone — from the executive suite to the entry level. Cybersecurity policies and best practices must be mandatory and built directly into a company’s operations and strategic plans driven by education that is consistently delivered.
Cybersecurity also has a dire need for people with diverse backgrounds, thought and skills and we should leverage Canada’s vibrant and diverse community to create more pathways for women, BIPOC communities, LGBTQ+, persons with disabilities, veterans and others.
We need to inspire Canadian talent to recognize this is a viable industry filled with opportunities and build the infrastructure to support the nurturing of this talent. Canada may have a cybersecurity talent shortage, but it’s not short of talent nor of the opportunities to harness it to serve all Canadians.