Microsoft, in a bid to close the U.S. cybersecurity skills gap, is leveraging the help of the country’s community colleges with the goal of recruiting 250,000 cybersecurity professionals into the workforce by 2025.
According to the company, that represents half of the country’s cybersecurity workforce shortage. Those professionals will work for both Microsoft and other organizations around the country that demand cybersecurity skills.
The effort is a four-year campaign designed to make curriculum free of charge to the nation’s public community colleges, provide training for new and existing faculty at 150 colleges and provide scholarships and other resources to 25,000 students.
In a blog penned by Microsoft President and Vice Chair Brad Smith, the company cited the SolarWinds compromise when the company published a large series of blogs about the technical details and mitigation steps, but found many of those details falling on deaf ears due to a lack of cybersecurity skills.
“In short, there were not enough people with the training needed to read everything we were writing,” Smith said.
In addition, Smith noted that organizations constantly vent their frustrations about not being able to find workers with cybersecurity skills.
According to Smith, citing data from LinkedIn and Cyberseek.org, there are currently 464,200 open jobs in the U.S. that require cybersecurity skills, accounting for 6% of all open jobs in the country.
Even more striking is the fact that for almost every two cybersecurity jobs filled in the U.S., one site empty.
According to Smith, “It’s like going into baseball’s World Series with only six players on the field when the other team has all nine. (And as we encounter every day at Microsoft, the nation’s cybersecurity adversaries are fielding complete and world-class teams.)”
Microsoft says the tech sector has launched other initiatives designed to leverage four-year colleges and universities, but those fail to tap into opportunity that community colleges present.
The blog included this data from the American Association of Community Colleges:
- There are 1,044 community colleges, located in every state and territory
- 8 million Americans attend classes at a community college
- Average tuition and fees at community colleges are under $4,000, while traditional four-year schools are just above $10,000.
- More than 1.5 million degrees and certificates were awarded in 2018-2019.
Community colleges reflected diversity, with 40% black, African American or Hispanic students, 29% first generation students, 20% students with disabilities, 5% veterans and 57% women.
“The last aspect is important for an additional reason,” Smith wrote. “Currently the nation’s cybersecurity workforce is notably lacking in diversity. Today 82.4% of the country’s cybersecurity jobs are held by men and 80% are held by people who are white. We need to build a cybersecurity workforce that is both larger and more diverse. Community colleges are uniquely situated to help the country do both.”
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