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As published by Shannon Leininger on LinkedIn

Conversation around Canada’s digital skills gap continues to pick up steam. In fact, I wrote about this topic not too long ago. And I’m often asked “Why?” Why is there a gap? And one key reason stands out – we are not doing enough to inspire and encourage our youth to pursue a career in STEM.  

That’s why I’m so excited to announce a new cybersecurity skills program that starts in the classroom… and we’re going BIG!  

In partnership with STEM Fellowship, today we launched the Cybersecurity Classroom Training Program (CCTP) – the country’s widest-reaching cybersecurity education program aimed at high school students, and the first of its kind in Canada.  

Funded by a $12-million in-kind investment from Cisco, the CCTP brings cybersecurity education and awareness to upwards of 40,000 high school students and 2,000 teachers across Canada, with two goals: 1) building awareness of online safety concepts and practices; 2) inspiring students to pursue future digital skills training.  

Bridging the gap  

At its core, the CCTP was borne out of a need to address a sizable gap – the absence of cybersecurity in the high school curriculum. Currently too few students are receiving cybersecurity education. Just one third of Canadian students reported being taught to detect social engineering attacks, such as phishing or spam, despite these acts being a near-daily occurrence. 

As our society becomes increasingly digital, it’s critical that cybersecurity awareness and education is included in the curriculum. Basic cybersecurity education and digital literacy skills must begin early on to engage more students in STEM and to equip them with the tools to succeed in the digital economy. 

Bringing digital reality into the classroom 

What excites me most about this program is the creative approach to integrate cybersecurity into the classroom. The CCTP provides real world content that is topical to what students are hearing and seeing in their daily lives. 

Leveraging the latest cybersecurity content from Cisco’s renowned Networking Academy, the CCTP weaves cybersecurity modules into core subjects like English, Health, Business, Math and more. A few examples below:

  • Business: Recognizing the characteristics and operation of an attack on digital business; learning the techniques to protect organizations from a cyber-attack.  
  • Art and Culture: A deeper look at digital performance and e-Ticketing fraud; an analysis of pirating and torrents.  
  • Health: Evaluating health and fitness information online to distinguish between evidence- and data-driven information versus forgery.  

Across public, private, and non-profit sectors, we must maintain intentional and continuous efforts to build digital skills capacity and close the skills gap. Initiatives like the CCTP are key to preparing future generations to thrive in a digital world, fill our talent pipeline and support economic growth.