A cybersecurity course for underprivileged youth is now offered by a Canadian organization
Canadian post-secondary institutions are increasingly offering cybersecurity courses to meet the demand for IT security professionals.
The latest is a Toronto-area nonprofit agency called Youth Employment Services (YES) that trains disadvantaged and vulnerable youth between the ages of 15 and 29. Next month, it is launching a cybersecurity course with paid training in conjunction with IBM. Graduates of the free 13-week course will receive an IBM Cybersecurity Analyst professional certificate.
Titled Career Jumpstart: Cybersecurity Analyst, the course is aimed at at-risk youth – defined as those who identify with mental health issues such as depression – and Ukrainian refugees who have a post-secondary education, have no full-time employment and are eligible to work in Canada.
Computer experience and knowledge is not necessary, although it is an advantage.
There is room for 100 students in the first cohort, YES CEO Timothy Lang said in an interview. Due to COVID-19, much of the course will be delivered online, but he hopes some will soon be delivered in the classroom.
“We are excited to train more at-risk youth in a high-needs field and help close the [cybersecurity] skills gap,” Lang said in an interview.
Many polls show there is a shortage of cybersecurity workers in Canada, he said.
He agreed with a suggestion that most employers want experienced IT people. But, he added, YES has partnerships with a number of companies for placement. The charity was able to convince them to look beyond their desire for people with experience in many areas, he said, particularly the value of hiring at-risk and racialized youth.
It’s a win-win situation for both parties, he suggested: companies get long-term employees, while young people get job satisfaction. A job “changes their life,” Lang said.
The cybersecurity program is funded by a commitment of just under $1 million from the Province of Ontario’s Skills Development Fund.
While initially the cybersecurity course will only be open to youth in the Greater Toronto Area, Lang hopes it will expand to other provinces. For example, he said, the YES cloud computing course is offered in Vancouver through a partnership with the BC Tech Association, an industry group that also offers training courses.
YES has been around since 1968. Today, it has an annual budget of just under $20 million from the federal government, the Ontario government, the city of Toronto and private foundations.
It offers 25 free programs that last from two weeks to six months, ranging from how to find and keep a job, how to start a business and digital literacy, to cloud computing (a program run in conjunction with AWS).
It also offers internships. Lang claims a 90% success rate.
The Cyber Security course is for people who are anxious, depressed or struggling with mental health issues because of the impact of Covid-19 or other life obstacles.
“There is a growing rate of young people with mental illness, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Lang said. “Before the pandemic, we already saw rates of mental illness in young people increase – it’s still unclear why – but the pandemic has made this worse.”
“I think almost anyone with an interest could be suited for digital literacy or cybersecurity. [courses],” he added. “But in this case, we thought we would focus on people who have mental health issues which have unfortunately led to some of them staying home and not reaching out. “
YES means: “‘You can change your life and increase your worth and your dignity,'” he said. A good job always does that, he added.