OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program Addresses The Dynamic Threat Landscape

Irfan Shakeel, VP of Training and Certifications at OPSWAT, discusses the $10 million OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program, which aims to close the cybersecurity skills gap in critical infrastructure and OT/ICS environments to address the dynamic threat landscape.

Kindly talk about OPSWAT’s Scholarship Program and why you decided to offer CIP training courses.
Through the OPSWAT Academy $10 million scholarship, we aim to make CIP training more accessible to the industry. A critical cybersecurity skills gap exists, especially in critical infrastructure and OT/ICS environments. Our goal is to help close that skills gap with our Academy training, ensuring professionals have the skills they need to protect their organizations from evolving cyber threats.

How would you evaluate the cybersecurity landscape and the role of OT security in the Middle East?
Assessing the cybersecurity environment and the significance of Operational Technology (OT) security in the Middle East involves recognizing several key factors. Firstly, numerous critical infrastructure networks in the region, like other parts of the world, operate on outdated or legacy systems lacking robust security features. Secondly, the Middle East’s critical infrastructure sectors are notably increasing their workforce, including third-party contractors, employees, and individuals with elevated system access. This growth intensifies the vulnerability to insider threats, spanning from malicious intentions to negligence or susceptibility to social engineering tactics.

Which countries is the Scholarship Program available in the Middle East?
The OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program is available in several Middle Eastern countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Jordan. Our initiative aims to bridge the cybersecurity skills gap, in collaboration with local governments and academic institutions, ensuring access to crucial education for securing critical infrastructure. This opportunity is aligned with local regulations to empower a competent cybersecurity workforce.

How do you intend to impart these courses?
OPSWAT Academy courses are delivered through a blend of online learning platforms and strategic partnerships with educational institutions and government agencies. This approach allows us to offer flexible, self-paced learning environments alongside structured coursework, enabling participants to access our comprehensive curriculum from anywhere in the world. Our training is designed to be practical and applicable, focusing on real-world scenarios and the latest cybersecurity technologies and practices.

What are the eligibility criteria for applying to OPSWAT‘s Scholarship Program?
The eligibility criteria for applying to OPSWAT’s Scholarship Program include being at least 18 years old, demonstrating proficiency in English, and falling into one of the following categories: (A) currently employed in the cybersecurity industry, or (B) enrolled in studies related to cybersecurity or relevant domains such as cyber-physical systems, information security, or computer science with the intention of pursuing a career in cybersecurity. Additionally, applicants must commit to completing the Course Package within six (6) months of gaining access to it.

What is the application process like, and what materials are required?
The application process for the OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program requires interested individuals to meet specific eligibility criteria, including age, language proficiency, and either current employment in the cybersecurity field or enrollment in relevant academic studies. Applicants should visit the OPSWAT Academy website to confirm their eligibility and follow the provided instructions to apply. The focus is on ensuring applicants are prepared to engage with and complete the course package within the designated timeframe.

How are scholarship recipients selected?
The OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program recipients are selected based on a comprehensive review of their eligibility against the program’s criteria. Special consideration is given to those within our target learners: government employees, professionals working in critical infrastructure protection (CIP), university students pursuing relevant degrees, and members of cybersecurity-focused groups. This approach ensures that our scholarship supports individuals most likely to impact the cybersecurity landscape and contribute effectively to protecting critical infrastructures.

What is the duration of the scholarship, and are there any requirements to maintain eligibility?
The OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program is granted for a period of six months, during which recipients are expected to actively participate in and complete the provided certification courses. To maintain their scholarship eligibility, recipients must demonstrate continuous progress and engagement with the course materials. This ensures that the scholarship effectively contributes to developing skilled professionals ready to tackle the challenges in the cybersecurity field, aligning with the program’s goal of closing the cybersecurity skills gap.

How many scholarships are awarded each year?
The OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program aims to award up to twenty-five thousand (25,000) scholarships. This ambitious target reflects our commitment to significantly impact the cybersecurity workforce gap by offering extensive training opportunities to a broad audience of professionals and students. By providing access to up to 25,000 participants, we ensure a substantial influx of skilled individuals ready to enhance the security and resilience of critical infrastructure worldwide.

Are any mentorship or networking opportunities provided as part of the scholarship program?
Our program emphasizes specialized cybersecurity training and certifications. Although formal mentorship is not a core component, networking opportunities abound through webinars and online events. Participants can meet professionals globally, significantly expanding their professional network. This tailored coursework and networking blend is designed to propel participants towards success in the CIP cybersecurity field, ensuring a well-rounded skill set for protecting critical infrastructure.

What are the benefits or perks of being a scholarship recipient?
Recipients of the scholarship receive six months’ access to nine certification courses through OPSWAT Academy. Upon completion, they are awarded nine certificates. Additionally, they gain exclusive invitations to webinars and events, offering insights into the latest cybersecurity challenges and solutions. This program boosts their cybersecurity knowledge and provides significant networking opportunities with industry professionals, enhancing their career prospects.

Are there any specific projects or initiatives in which scholarship recipients are expected to participate?
The OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program does not require recipients to participate in specific projects or initiatives. Our main goal is to equip them with essential cybersecurity skills through our certification courses, focusing on critical infrastructure protection. Recipients are encouraged to complete these courses to enhance their expertise and readiness for the cybersecurity challenges they will face in their professional careers.

How does OPSWAT support diversity and inclusion within its scholarship program?
At OPSWAT Academy, we prioritize diversity and inclusion in our scholarship program, promoting accessibility worldwide within legal bounds. Our selection process is designed to objectively assess each applicant’s potential and commitment to cybersecurity without bias toward their background or identity. By fostering a diverse cohort of scholarship recipients, we aim to contribute to a more inclusive cybersecurity workforce that can address the challenges of today’s dynamic threat landscape.

Are there any opportunities for recipients to intern or work with OPSWAT during or after completing their studies?
The OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program offers extensive cybersecurity training and certification rather than direct employment opportunities with OPSWAT. However, becoming certified through the OPSWAT Academy adds significant value to a recipient’s resume, highlighting their dedication and expertise in cybersecurity. Although the program does not guarantee internships or jobs at OPSWAT, recipients are encouraged to apply to the company. Certification is highly valued and can enhance a participant’s employment prospects with OPSWAT.

How does OPSWAT measure the impact of its scholarship program?
OPSWAT Academy measures the impact of its scholarship program through a combination of completion rates, certification achievements, and feedback from recipients. We closely monitor the progress and success of participants in completing the course package and obtaining their certifications. Additionally, we gather feedback to understand how the program has enhanced their skills and preparedness for cybersecurity roles. This feedback helps us continually refine and improve the program, ensuring it effectively closes the cybersecurity skills gap and supports our broader mission of securing critical infrastructure.

Are there any additional resources or support services available to scholarship recipients, such as career counselling or professional development workshops?
The OPSWAT Academy Scholarship Program primarily provides access to certification courses focusing on cybersecurity education. While it does not directly offer career counselling or professional development, workshops and selected webinars include sessions on these topics. Speakers share valuable tips and insights on career advancement and professional growth. Completing these courses equips recipients with skills that enhance their cybersecurity career prospects, with the added benefit of guidance through webinar content.