Ryerson's Chang School and the City of Brampton Partner to Address In-Demand Skills Needed in the Cybersecurity Field

 
It's never too late to pursue an education in the field of your choice - an idea that is embodied by the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Since its inception, The Chang School - named after the late third chancellor of Ryerson, G. Raymond Chang - has helped thousands of students further their education in a variety of fields including business, technology, humanities, science and engineering, and law and government, to name just a few.

This spring, residents and employees in Brampton, Mississauga, Halton and its surrounding areas will have the option of studying two courses from one of The Chang School's Certificates - particularly if they have an interest in cybersecurity.

The Certificate in Computer Security and Digital Forensics is one that's becoming increasingly relevant over time, due in large part to modern society's ever-growing dependence on technology.

Currently, the two courses from this Certificate being offered at Brampton City Hall are Digital Forensics Systems, which introduces students to digital forensics notions and techniques, and Continuity and Risk Management, which deals with risk management strategies in mitigating and preparing for disasters and major emergencies.

"In order to build Canada's cyber defenses, there is an urgent need for cybersecurity training. For a second term, The Chang School is pleased to partner with the City of Brampton to offer courses in cybersecurity," said Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Dean of The Chang School. "Partnerships such as these are important for creating access to opportunities for lifelong learning, and help fill the skills gap in emerging fields."

Photo: Cybersecurity students taking courses at Brampton City Hall. Back row: Alfred Lai, Instructor, and Fred Anger, Executive Director, Financial Planning and Strategy, The Chang School. Photo credit: Dave Fryer, City of Brampton

"The field has been evolving incredibly quickly with an expansion of cyber threats occurring almost in real-time," says Ryerson University professor and academic coordinator, Alex Ferworn.

"One of our instructors, who is an expert in the field, ran a 'honey pot' exercise in which he created a simulated computing system at Ryerson that was designed to simulate one of our critical academic systems in order that it might be 'attacked' by hackers."

Ferworn says it took a surprisingly short amount of time to watch the network traffic explode as hackers from around the world attempted to crack the honey pot.

"When you have this much activity in a field, you have to keep up to date."

As a result, not only does the program constantly evaluate new software and techniques to introduce into classes, Ferworn says The Chang School is investing in new computing systems to provide students the best experience possible while they learn to recognize, forensically investigate, and thwart cyber-attacks.

According to a report from the Financial Post, it has been reported that the need for new cybersecurity professionals is growing by 7% annually in Canada with 8000 new professionals needed by 2022.

"This leaves a lot of room for people with the right skills to find employment that is rewarding, stable and makes a contribution to Canada’s secure future," adds Ferworn.

Gregory Kuziw, a student who took courses in Brampton last winter, says the classes help provide a scope of what's actually useful in such a vast field of information.

"Within a short timeframe I have been exposed to several computing tools that are used in the industry," he said.

Kuziw, who has always had a passion for robotics, sees himself working in an IT-related field in the future, engaging with network security and data communication.

Fellow student Franco Geronimo agrees that the Brampton courses offer a unique experience compared to most other programs.

"I don't think you can obtain this kind of curriculum elsewhere, so it's unique in that sense," Geronimo says. He also explains how the nature of the material being studied requires the professors to have a good amount of applicable work experience in the field.

 "Canada has a huge shortage of cybersecurity talent and we want to contribute to remedying this problem," Ferworn explains. "We are not trying to produce academics, we are introducing people to a field where they can become professionals."

Career-focused students wondering what their job prospects will look like at the conclusion of the program may be surprised at just how many options there are.

According to Ferworn, some of the program's graduates have been hired by the Ontario government as junior analysts, while others have gone on to even start their own practices in cybersecurity.

Due to this variation in career opportunities, he says it's hard to picture a single "perfect candidate" for this program - while it expectedly attracts many system administrators, it also attracts a lot of people who have no prior experience in the field.

Ferworn recalls that one of the program's most successful graduates was a stay-at-home mom for many years before eventually being hired for an entry-level position at a bank.

"When she checked in with us - we try to maintain contact with our graduates - she was moving into middle management and attributed her success to being able to explain complex security issues in straight forward ways to senior management so that the information she was providing became actionable," he says.

"Students can come from all walks of life, levels of education and backgrounds."

Whether it's Computer Security or another program altogether, Kuziw has one piece of advice for students looking to continue their education: Look no further than Ryerson's Chang School.

"It's a worthwhile investment," Kuziw says. "Providing an environment to help combat cybersecurity risks and the lack of talent present today is the upmost of importance for a better tomorrow."

Visit ryerson.ca/ce/cybersecurity to learn more about the courses offered this spring and all other programs offered at The Chang School.


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