> Willis College

Established in 1866, is proudly Canadian and still one of Canada’s best-kept secrets

The word innovation often brings to mind previously unfathomable advancements in technology, but the true title of innovator goes to those who have stood the test of time. Willis College, now in its 154th year, is one such institution.

A shining example of the strength and agility of career colleges in Canada, Willis College has produced over 150,000 graduates, which is to say some of the top talent in industries like business, healthcare, and technology—industries in which some of the greatest strides in innovation are being made. As a private career college, Willis College is employment-oriented and student-centric, and its programs prepare learners for professions in rapidly changing fields. In order to do so, the College itself must focus on innovation.

An agile business model has enabled Willis College to adapt to suit emerging needs through the decades, taking the institution from one specializing in secretarial and business courses upon its opening in 1866, to what it is today: home to a cybersecurity academy that is the only multi-vendor academy with industry-led partners from the US, the UK, and Israel; a revolutionary force in developing women in STEMP programs; and creator of the Cybersecurity Analyst diploma, the only such Canadian program recognized by the Canadian Armed Forces.


“Because of our agility, Willis College has been able to establish dynamic relationships with industry leaders such as Microsoft, Fortinet from California, Sophos from the UK, Checkpoint from Israel, and with government organizations such as the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces,” says Rima Aristocrat, President of Willis College. “It’s only through such collaborations that we can gather the knowledge necessary to effectively craft a unified framework.”

These collaborations first led Willis College’s leadership to analyze the state of cybersecurity training. Industry leaders were looking for curricula to upskill their employees—and the talent pipeline in general—and Willis College has risen to the task with its technology programs, which include Cybersecurity Analytics, Network Security, and Software Development (Mobile Applications).

The nonprofit, through its partnership with Willis College, oversees the delivery of IT, business, and sustainable-energy training programs to create an essential technical and managerial capacity within the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis populations. TeKnoWave creates employment and entrepreneurial opportunities that in turn help to achieve community social and economic goals.

Another local partnership exists with Petawawa Military Base, with whom Willis College established the Veteran Friendly Transition Program. It first offered a two-year pilot program for veterans training to become Cybersecurity Operators, and today, both Willis College’s campuses—Ottawa and Arnprior—house VFTP training centers.

In 2018, the Department of National Defence funded Calian Technologies and the Veteran Friendly Transition program, under Willis College’s leadership, to develop a study to better understand why only 10% of cyber professionals are women.

"Willis College has produced over 150,000 graduates, which is to say some of the top talent in industries like business, healthcare, and technology."

ts programs in Business and Healthcare fulfill the equally pressing workforce needs of those industries, too. The College’s curricula incorporate timely and useful skills, bolstering the diplomas’ value. For example, students studying to become Administrative Assistants can focus on either human resources or in marketing. Within its Healthcare program, students can earn diplomas as Addiction & Community Services Workers, Personal Support Workers, or as Medical Office Administrators with a Ward Clerk Specialty.

Additionally, Willis College’s micro-credential skills trainings—including facilitation skills, integration of technical skills into management, and leadership skills in cybersecurity—are sought after by many corporations.

Willis’ swift answers to industry needs have always been a hallmark of the College. The ’70s and ’80s, for example, saw the opening of the Willis College Language School, a direct response to the Canadian Federal Government’s need to fulfill its bilingualism requirements.

Willis College is as focused on the experience of its potential students as it is on talent pipelines for the business, healthcare, and technology industries. In 2004, President Rima Aristocrat established TeKnoWave, Canada’s first national aboriginal IT training program.

Part of Willis College’s commitment to doing so has been to establish a $24,000 Women in Technology scholarship, benefiting female students entering the Cybersecurity Analyst or the Mobile Software Developer programs. Another means is its latest public/private/industry partnership with the University of Ottawa and Mind Bridge, which supports women in STEMP programs through its micro-credentials training.

Willis College has evolved over 154 years by creating a culture of innovation. It is building both the pipelines and the talent needed to create a stronger innovation ecosystem and a stronger country.

“We want to give everyone an opportunity to be part of high-growth industries,” says Rima Aristocrat. “When we do so, it creates diversity, and that in turn contributes to the innovation and vitality of our city. It creates an environment of collaboration and through that collaboration, innovation is the outcome.”

Rima Aristocrat
President of Willis College

As an educator, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and keynote speaker, Rima has been bridging
the skills gap between education and industry for over 40 years.

She is the founder of the Canadian Association of Immigrant Professionals, TeKnoWave, Inc., the Veteran Friendly Transition Program, Willis College’s Cybersecurity Academy, Willis Women in Technology, and a Soldier’s Hero for Military Spouses Scholarships. The only Canadian on Microsoft’s Education Advisory Council, Rima has also received numerous national and international recognitions for her contributions to post-secondary education, including the 2018–2019 Global Cyber Startup Observatory’s Cyber Hall of Fame, 2020 Women Who Work Global Award and the 2020 Women in Cybersecurity Global Award.

“We have to reach women and young girls to raise awareness among them that this is a field they can thrive in.”

- Rima Aristocrat

Willis College

Shopping Centre, 1200 St Laurent Blvd., #20 Ottawa,
ON K1K 3B8, Canada

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