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Microsoft Aims To Address Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage Crisis

Microsoft on Thursday announced a new campaign with community colleges to help prepare tomorrow's cybersecurity workforce.

The company announced the new initiative in a blog post by Microsoft President Brad Smith, who outlined Micrososft's goals of training and recruiting 250,000 people -- which Smith said represents half of the shortage the United States currently faces in the cybersecurity sector -- by 2025.

Smith cited the company's internal data that shows more than 460,000 positions requiring some cybersecurity skills are currently vacant in the United States. That's 6 percent of all open positions on the market, according to Microsoft's analysis.

"Consider this -- for almost every two cybersecurity jobs in the United States today, a third job is sitting empty because of a shortage of skilled people," said Smith. "It's like going into baseball's World Series with only six players on the field when the other team has all nine."

Microsoft aims to reverse this trend starting at the community college level. Since the beginning of the year, Microsoft has spent time in 14 community colleges to work with administrations on how to best implement its nationwide program. One piece of feedback it repeatedly received was that those communities where the colleges were located received tangible benefits in the form of a better workforce when colleges invested in cybersecurity training.

And that's exactly how Microsoft plans to address the workforce shortage. Smith outlined Microsoft's three-pronged approach:

  • Make curriculum available free of charge to all of the nation's public community colleges.
  • Provide training for new and existing faculty at 150 community colleges.
  • Provide scholarships and supplemental resources to 25,000 students.
  • To accomplish these tasks, the company will provide not only community colleges, but also all higher-learning institutes with free tools and educational curriculum. Included will be:

    • Microsoft Security, Compliance and Identity Fundamentals certification course materials
    • Azure Security Technologies certification course materials
    • Free practice and certification exams
    • Course prep sessions, led by Microsoft Technical Trainers

    Further, Microsoft will partner with the National Cybersecurity Training & Education Center to help provide teachers and faculty with professional development opportunities and ways to stay current in their curriculums, and will partner with the American Association of Community Colleges to offer grants to those campuses wanting to accelerate their cybersecurity programs.

    Finally, Microsoft has announced the national Microsoft Cybersecurity Scholarship Program, which aims to provide aid to at least 25,000 students over the next four years.

    Smith said this is just the start of addressing the cybersecurity pro shortage, and Microsoft's goal is to expand the campaign to other organizations that want to join in. "Building on our Microsoft Skills for Jobs global initiative, this new campaign can grow quickly to involve more companies, more nonprofits, and governments at the federal, state, and local levels," said Smith. "With additional volunteers from other companies and added financial resources, we can scale even farther to reach our full national needs."

    Microsoft said it plans to directly hire some of the 250,000 new security pros.

    About the Author

    Chris Paoli (@ChrisPaoli5) is the associate editor for Converge360.

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