As posted on LinkedIn following Cisco Canada’s investment of $1.75 million to help bring cyber skills to more 1,500 high school students in New Brunswick.  

We are at a crossroads. Canada is a digital-first society, from how we shop to how we visit the doctor. But when we consider our country’s long-term economic prosperity and competitiveness, we are at risk of falling behind, lacking both the human capital and skills to prosper in a digital world. 

It’s no secret that Canada has been facing a digital skills shortage, with demand for talent far outstripping our supply. The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) had estimated that by 2020 Canada would have 218,000 ICT positions that would need to be filled, and now estimates that employment in Canada’s digital economy will grow to over two million by 2022.

On our current path, there are simply not enough professionals who currently have the skills to fill these roles. 

So, where does this leave us when accessible, high-quality education and skills training are critical for Canada’s economic resilience, growth and competitiveness? 

We’ve got to address our skills gap. And we’ve got to do it now.  

The pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of our world and increased demand for IT skills. In the cybersecurity space in particular, demand for talent is growing seven per cent annually across the country. 

The key to addressing our skills gap is to equip Canadians with the right mix of digital skills needed to be successful for the workforce of the future. The private sector must support governments at all levels in Canada as they work to put digital skills development at the centre of their recovery plans to unlock the next era of economic growth. 

That’s why partnerships, like the one we announced today, are so important in helping us get on track. Cisco Canada is working with New Brunswick’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and CyberNB to create a new cybersecurity curriculum that has the potential to reach upwards of 1,500 high school students in the next three years. This partnership will help solidify New Brunswick as a leading centre for cybersecurity and build a pipeline of talent to keep up with the growing demand for cybersecurity skills.  

Cisco is proud to invest more than $1.75 million to help build the next generation of Canadian IT leaders and help students and educators keep moving forward by skilling for future jobs in our fast-growing digital economy. But it can’t end here. With all the important work that governments and ecosystem partners across Canada are already doing, building these partnerships can help create a nation-wide cybersecurity skills network that will help narrow the skills shortage, while providing Canadians with the skills to seek out high-paying, high-skilled jobs. 

Cisco is committed to our role in closing the digital skills gap in Canada and building a more inclusive future for all. This public-private-not for profit partnership model offers a valuable blueprint to transform the lives of learners, educators, and communities.  

As Canada comes out the other side of this pandemic, we can rethink and reset how we approach technology and IT education by creating more opportunities for Canadians to enhance their digital skills – at all ages and career levels – so we can keep Canada’s economy competitive and prosperous in our digital future.