Microsoft Expanding Cybersecurity Worker Shortage Initiative
In three years there will be 3.5 million vacant cybersecurity jobs across the globe, according to a recent report by Cybersecurity Ventures. And that's going to lead to real problems in addressing the growing threat landscape, according to Microsoft.
In response, the company on Wednesday announced further steps to close the cybersecurity job vacancy gap with the expansion of its cybersecurity skills campaign to an additional 23 countries.
First unveiled in October 2021, the initiative involves partnering with community colleges to provide free curriculum and training for those interested in a career in cybersecurity. Wednesday's addendum will see the program expanded to additional geographical areas that Microsoft sees as vital in combating threats. Per Kate Behncken, vice president and lead of Microsoft Philanthropies:
The expansion will see new targeted investments in the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. These countries have an elevated cyberthreat risk, coupled with a significant gap in their cybersecurity workforces both in terms of the number of professionals employed in cybersecurity vs. the demand, as well as a lack of diversity.
Behncken expanded on the lack of diversity by pointing out that just 17 percent of cybersecurity professionals are women. "Leaving women out of the cybersecurity workforce leaves talent on the table and will only hurt our ability to close the skills gap."
Microsoft acknowledges there is a skill gap, but the only way to close it, according to Behncken, is to fully understand it. Microsoft announced a new partnership with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop a detailed skills gap report in selected countries and assist in shaping curriculum and training courses to address those shortcomings.
Microsoft is also partnering with Ecole 42, a free computer science training program, to provide Microsoft training courses on its peer-to-peer learning platform that gamifies the learning process to attract a new generation into the computer science field.
Additionally, in an effort to address skill gaps, Microsoft is extending online courses and training materials, including a free training program called "Become a Cybersecurity Professional" in the LinkedIn Learning platform and "hundreds of hours of content" on technical skills through the Microsoft Learn platform.
Along with announcing the new expansions to the initiative, Behncken also touted the program's success in the United States over the last five months, saying since launch, Microsoft has brought the program to 135 community colleges and has handed out numerous scholarships to those looking to continue their education in cybersecurity.
While Behncken says it's a good start, Microsoft and its partners will have to do more. "The number of cybersecurity attacks around the world is increasing every day, and increasing in complexity as cybercriminals continue to escalate their activity," said Behncken. "It's critical that we invest in the cybersecurity workforce to ensure there are enough people with the skills needed to thwart these attacks and protect the digital ecosystem to keep organizations secure and people safe."