Optus, in partnership with LifeJourney International, has launched an online cyber education program for secondary school, TAFE, and university students, aiming to beef up the country's ability to defend against cyber threats in the future.
The Optus Cyber Security Experience hopes to address the cyber skills shortage in Australia by delivering free online cybersecurity education courses for students, allowing them to experience a day in the life of an Optus cyber expert.
Speaking at the launch in Macquarie Park, Sydney on Tuesday, David Caspari, VP of Optus Business, reiterated the concern of many of his peers that cybersecurity is the number one issue facing businesses not only in Australia but globally.
"Addressing cybersecurity continues to get more complex in the increasingly sophisticated threat landscape; it's a constant challenge for Australian organisations to keep up with the expertise, capabilities, and resources needed to stay ahead of all these threats," he said, adding that technology and infrastructure is only one piece of the cybersecurity puzzle.
"Having the right resources to analyse, decipher, and respond to cyber threats is critical and the significant global shortage of cyber in the workforce to meet these needs
"To effectively combat today's cyber threats, we cannot do it alone. Industry, academia, and government must come together to share knowledge to comprehensively understand our cybersecurity defence in Australia."
According to LifeJourney, this skills shortfall will amount to 2 million cybersecurity professionals by 2019.
"We can steal each other's talent, but that's not what it's about," Vaughan Paul, Optus VP of HR, added during the launch. "We have to start at grass roots level. We have to skill up our current workforce and skill-up educators to address the demand that's out there."
The Optus Cyber Security Experience provides a career simulation experience for students, and forms part of LifeJourney's Day of STEM program, which launched in Australia in September last year and now includes a separate Women in STEM initiative.
The experience will see students learning about the types of courses and STEM subjects they need if they are interested in a career in cyber-related fields, including in the finance, education, and healthcare sectors.
The online platform allows students to explore what it is like to have a career in such fields, and will see cyber experts, including Optus' cyber risk consultant Sophie Brown, act as virtual mentors and share their personal career journeys through the online program.
Moving though the platform, students are introduced to their mentors and are then shown what their usual work day consists of. It then continues to ask questions of the students about the future they see themselves having by allowing them to shortlist their future resume, then being shown the skills they will need to get there.
The program is also supported by Macquarie University, La Trobe University, and Deakin University, who are partnering to connect students with new cyber-related courses and degree pathways in a bid to teach the skills and activities involved in a cyber attack, and the importance of combating the growing volume of cyber threats.
"The cyber skills gap is a critical issue for the nation and education is key to addressing this challenge, if we want to be prepared and internationally competitive," added David Wilkinson, deputy vice chancellor of Corporate Engagement and Advancement at Macquarie University.
The new partnership will see Barker College on Sydney's north shore become Australia's first secondary school to sign up to the cyber experience.
In addition, the program also provides a Cyber Teacher Certification program for teachers to deliver cybersecurity learnings to their students.
Optus Business opened its Advanced Security Operations Centre (ASOC) alongside Trustwave in November, offering managed cybersecurity services to enterprise and government customers.
The ASOC joined Optus and parent company Singtel's network of security operations centres, aiming to provide customers with access to data analytics, automated incident response, and threat intelligence.
Optus Business also co-invested AU$8 million alongside La Trobe University in Melbourne last October to form a cybersecurity degree that is focused on developing multi-disciplinary courses, research programs, and scholarships for students to study cybersecurity.
The cyber degree followed the AU$10 million co-investment Optus Business made with Macquarie University in May to establish a cybersecurity hub that will provide research, degree programs, executive and business short courses, professional recruiting opportunities, and consultancy services to the private sector and government agencies.
In September, Optus Business added cybersecurity prevention, detection, and monitoring capabilities to its government and enterprise managed security services portfolio, with the solution running on the Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Security Platform.