Palo Alto Networks and IBM Canada Launch Youth Cybersecurity Program

Today is Safer Internet Day, and it’s never to early in life to get youth involved with initiatives to protect themselves and their work online.

Palo Alto Networks, British Columbia’s Ministry of Education, and IBM Canada have come together to bring the Palo Alto Networks Cybersecurity Academy to high school students in B.C. in an effort to prepare students for careers in cybersecurity.

High school students will now be able to receive hands-on training to understand cyber threats and the best ways to handle or neutralize them. The courses will focus on areas including network security skills, including firewall installation, antivirus software and zero-day vulnerabilities, and when students complete the 12-month program, they will be eligible for a cybersecurity associate certification.

“Students today are increasingly tech-savvy and connected now more than ever before,” said Rob Fleming, minister of education for British Columbia. “With the frequency of cyber attacks increasing, targeting both institutions and individuals, it is critical that we prepare students with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves and their data against such threats.”

There are currently more than 450 Palo Alto Networks cybersecurity academies in over 55 countries so far, but in order to launch in Canada, they worked with IBM and the Ministry of Education to pilot the program in order to ensure both technical and non-technical staff could adequately roll the initiative out across the province. One of the largest needs that arose during the pilot was a lack of resources, so Palo Alto Networks rolled out more than 20 virtual labs for students to learn about networking systems and installing firewalls.

“Providing these students with foundational cybersecurity knowledge and skills will give them a leg up when applying for an entry-level IT position and the opportunity to grow from there,” said Dan Myers, senior manager of the Cybersecurity Academy at Palo Alto Networks. “While we can’t close the cybersecurity workforce gap overnight, we’re dedicated to helping students of all ages understand the cyber risks out there and educating them on the best ways we can all protect our way of life in the digital age.”

Courses are offered both in class and through a blending online experience.

Cybersecurity is an extremely important topic to consider for companies both in and out fo the tech world. In mid-2018, Canada released its own national cyber security strategy (along with $500 million over five years) to address shortcomings and propose a united front against malicious attackers. It was in that report that the government promised they “will explore initiatives to drive domestic demand for cyber security technologies and services,” so students who enter this program are sure to find demands for their skills as the exit post-secondary.