Willis College's Fortinet-backed advanced network security program opens

A private Ottawa post-secondary college has launched a new certificate program it says will make the city a leader in training and employing network security professionals.

Willis College announced Monday it will begin offering its Advanced Network Security Professional Diploma program in February. The college developed the 48-week co-op program in conjunction with California-based Fortinet, the world’s third-largest provider of network security solutions.

Fortinet, which employs almost 200 people in the capital, uses Ottawa as the engineering and development base for two of its major product lines, Fortimail and Fortivoice. It has already hired about 50 graduates of Willis’s basic Network Security Professional Diploma program, but says a more advanced course of study was necessary to ensure newly hired graduates were up to speed with the firm’s latest technology.

“It’s a tremendous partnership,” said Bill Park, Fortinet’s regional sales director. “It allows us to take on grads that have an immediate impact on Day 1 as soon as they enter the organization. They understand our OS, they understand our family of products and solutions and what we intend to do.”

Officials from Willis and Fortinet joined Mayor Jim Watson and other dignitaries to make the announcement on what was declared Cyber Security Day in Ottawa. As part of the occasion, Fortinet gave a tour of its FortiExpress bus – a “data centre on wheels” that travels to events and trade shows to showcase the company’s products.

Fortinet is investing $1 million in labs and classrooms for the new program, and the company has said in the past it expects to hire up to 250 graduates over the next several years.

“We’ve always recognized Ottawa as a tremendous hotbed of talent,” Mr. Park said.

In addition to Fortinet-specific content, the program’s curriculum also includes Cisco Certified Network Associate training. Willis president and CEO Rima Aristocrat said the college has other partners in the network security field, including Check Point, CGI and Bell Canada, and those companies will also be eager to snap up graduates of the program.

“They all need the skills that we have put together,” she said. “It’s exciting.”