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Ballarat a growing cyber security hub

The global cybersecurity workforce needs to grow by 145% to meet demand. Ballarat is stepping up to the plate, assisted by a new $1.8 million Global Cyber Centre employing 62 people established by global cloud services provider, CT4.

representation of cloud computing

“Cyber security is an important, fast growing part of the Victorian economy. The Victorian Government has shown foresight by bringing technology companies to regional areas, and by providing regional towns such as Ballarat with the opportunity to not just compete, but to excel, in a future that’s heavy in technology.” - Dan Pearson, CEO, CT4

Launched in 2009 with a presence in Europe, USA, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, CT4 builds and operates private and hybrid cloud platforms to the resources, government, manufacturing, health and education sectors.

As one of Australia’s first private cloud providers, CT4 (part of the Canopy Tools Group) is something of a trailblazer, and its latest innovation chapter involves Ballarat. It recently invested $1.8 million in a tech park in the Ballarat suburb of Mt Helen, taking its last vacant building to create a Global Cyber Centre and offer a Digital Apprentice Program: a forward-thinking concept of cyber apprentices with training and employment in regional Victoria. Officially opened by Ballarat Mayor Ben Taylor in November, the Centre includes a high-level security-cleared IT operations team, plus cloud-based, IoT and cyber security product development and testing.

So, why Ballarat? “We chose it over other centres due to the strong academic alignment with Federation University and TAFE, its proximity to Melbourne and the financial support from the Victorian Government’s Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund (RJIF) to assist in developing the site,” explains CT4 CEO, Dan Pearson. “It’s well situated to attract further investment from global companies such as CT4, as there’s a lower cost to maintaining a presence in regional cities compared to metropolitan areas. Benefits to global companies including proximity to international airports and rail; access to commercial and residential space; local loyalty and community engagement and for staff; work-life balance, lifestyle and a lower cost of living. Improvements in connectivity will even further enable major companies to consider regional towns for their business activities.

Did the fact that Ballarat is also home to IBM and the Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation (CeRDI) help sway CT4’S decision? “Though their presence is an added bonus, Victoria and in particular Ballarat itself was the key decision point for us to establish there,” responds Dan. “A major driver was the opportunity to create jobs and training in a growing regional locality with the ability to grow our operations further. The regional development push from the Victorian Government is aligned with CT4’s direction and we anticipate further expansion of the program. With a global 145% cyber security skills shortage, any region or city that can present itself as skilled in a particular sector will organically attract interest from investment. Cyber businesses need skilled staff and the growth of cyber businesses is only likely to expand with training and education of students to create an experienced and certified cyber talent pool. By creating such a pool of people in a high-demand skills base, other cyber companies looking for expansion into Australia and regional towns will have access to trained and experience IT specialists.”

Whilst emergence of new technology may adversely impact some industries and regions, the scale of technological change is also bringing with it a large demand for skilled jobs in areas such as software and network engineering, cyber security and data analytics. Demand in Australia is outweighing the number of people available with these skills – and the current number of graduates is simply not enough to stem the growing skills gap, Dan warns.

“By bringing trainee opportunities to regional areas, CT4’s able to support employment in a growing field for the next generation of technology workers,” he says. “As well as providing upskill and reskill possibilities for non-graduates and developing a skilled workforce through the earn-to-learn program, we’re looking to develop the right core skills to set up regional centres with a population ready and able to work productively in the innovative workplaces of the future while helping to solve the digital skills shortage. Skills of apprentices are enhanced by the inclusion of entry-level IT and cybersecurity skills into the curriculum, and the program creates quick employability while benefiting the local community. Jobs range from cyber security operations staff to project and software development; for example, there are opportunities to work on real life global projects such as our Asset Management platform, Canopy Manage.”

Dan anticipates a strong future ahead for CT4 in Ballarat. “Australia’s future prosperity in an increasingly digitised world will depend on ongoing investment in these technologies and further development in the digital skills required to operate them,” he notes. “We see a great need to expand the Digital Apprentice Program in Ballarat and beyond. CT4’s proud to be a part of the Ballarat community, bringing training, skills and employment to regional Australia.”

Projects like the Global Cyber Centre highlight the success of RJIF.

The government is providing an extra $30 million in funding for RJIF as part of the $2.6 billion Delivering for Rural and Regional Victoria Program, focussing on boosting jobs, building infrastructure and strengthening communities around the state.

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