Global technology leader Cisco is piloting a world-first program in New Zealand to build awareness around the career opportunities in cybersecurity, through self-paced virtual learning, mentoring and industry certification. The program targets women who have been displaced by the pandemic and supports them to pivot to a career in the booming field.
Known as the ‘Boost Program’, the initiative aims to help reskill New Zealand’s diverse and talented workforce with fundamental cybersecurity and digital skills, where there is currently a massive workforce shortage.
The cybersecurity skills gap is well known - deemed one of the key threats of the next decade by the World Economic Forum - and is one of the few sectors in which jobs are projected to continue to grow exponentially. In an industry that is rapidly evolving and becoming a high priority in the boardroom diversity in skills and thought is key, and more women are needed. Around 100,000 people are employed across New Zealand in ICT related roles, however only 20,000 of these are women.
In New Zealand, the field of cybersecurity covers various career pathways and supports those with the know-how into more technical cybersecurity roles including cybersecurity analyst and cybersecurity operations. Experience in this field also means gaining some of the critical skills that are beneficial to any career in the digital world.
Cisco’s New Zealand Country Manager, Leanne Buer, said of the industry, “Cybersecurity is a fast-paced industry with a huge skills shortfall and many exciting job opportunities. In piloting Cisco’s Boost Program in New Zealand we are aiming to open the door to the industry and offer participants with the opportunity to reskill, experience industry mentoring and build on the critical skills that many women have mastered throughout their careers.”
The tailored program runs four weeks and includes:
● 45 hours of virtual self-paced learning with access to Cisco’s Networking Academy modules including the Introduction to Cybersecurity and Cybersecurity Essentials. Cisco’s Master Security specialising training module, Fire Jumper is also included. Cisco’s Networking Academy provides the latest technical learning and curriculum, and is recognised across the industry and globally
● Six speakers from the cybersecurity industry sharing their insights and career journeys, as well as networking opportunities
● A cybersecurity mentor, with direct access to experts in the field for a power hour a week
● Access to employment skills support such as job opportunities through Cisco’s talent bridge (which connects job seekers to roles via a matching engine), CV writing and LinkedIn review workshops
● High performers in the program will be given the opportunity to advance further, with sponsorship to become certified completing the Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate, as well as access to Cisco’s Black Belt Academy program covering multi-factor authentication (Duo), Cloud, and SASE and interviews with Cisco and Cisco partners for open cybersecurity positions (this is an additional 4-6 week commitment).
The program aims to provide tangible pathways into cybersecurity careers, for those keen to enter the field. Once passing the Intro to Cybersecurity, and Cyber Essentials the Cisco team connects participants with employers through its partner and customer community.
“As New Zealand emerges into the recovery phase of the pandemic, we find ourselves facing a world of limited travel, career disruptions and increased digitisation, programs like Cisco’s Boost are helping to pave the way for those who have been most impacted.”
“Skills such as problem solving and customer service experience are hugely valuable in the world of cybersecurity. If you are someone interested in technology, with basic digital skills, if you’re curious and committed and enjoy working through problems then cybersecurity may be just the right career for you,” said Mrs Buer.
The program aims to support women from around New Zealand through virtual participation, with individuals joining from communities in Gisborne, Northland and Taranaki.
Beyond the reskilling opportunity, the program aims to create a tech-based community and the next wave of cybersecurity peers.
With 150 individuals in the program including a number that have been displaced in their careers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a handful of participants have shared what it means for them.
Before 2020 Sophie Walker was working in tourism - an industry that was turned on its head as much of the world was impacted by the pandemic. Walker then went on maternity leave November 2020 and has since put her tourism business into hibernation. With the end of maternity leave approaching in April this year, Ms Walker was keen to take this time to learn new skills and explore opportunities outside of the tourism sector.
The course has been hugely beneficial for Walker and opened her eyes to an entire new industry. She says, “I have found so many new terms and concepts to learn and very few are familiar. It feels good to now know what these tech phrases mean, how they can be applied to everyday life and to go through this process knowing I’ll be more educated in a different field. I’ll have more skills, a heightened awareness of how to be safe on the Internet and a chance to work in Cybersecurity in just a few weeks’ time!”
Kiri Tavanga is a small-business owner and web developer living with her family in Hokianga’s Opononi. Ms Tavanga said of the program: “I undertook Cisco’s Boost program to understand what the barriers will be for our rangatahi living locally. Though there are a number of hurdles to overcome before starting the course, I can share from experience that the Cisco Boost program is designed to ensure we succeed, no matter our location. The platform is engaging with opportunities to test skills in online team environments.
“I am looking forward to the mentorship into career pathways that Cisco has included at the completion of this program too. There certainly is a need for skills like these as New Zealand’s digital landscape grows,” she concludes.
The pilot intake of the program runs until April, with the next intake to commence in August, 2021.