Microsoft tackles America’s cybersecurity skills crisis

By Kate Birch
Committed to closing the cybersecurity skills gap, Microsoft launches US campaign to help colleges increase cybersecurity workforce

As cyberattacks continue to grow at an unprecedented rate, Microsoft has unveiled a national campaign with US community colleges to address the urgent cybersecurity workforce and talent shortages in the US.

The four-year campaign, which was unveiled on October 28, during Cybersecurity Awareness Month, commits to helping skill and recruit into the cybersecurity workforce 250,000 people by 2025, which is 50% of the country’s workforce shortage.

“if we’re going to protect the nation’s future, we need to strengthen cybersecurity protection,” says Brad Smith, Microsoft President, adding “we need a larger and more diverse cybersecurity workforce to succeed”.

Delivery of a ready-to-teach curriculum

Aimed at helping people gain the skills and certifications needed to close the cybersecurity skills gap and build an inclusive cybersecurity workforce, Microsoft’s community college commitment includes the following:

  • Deliver for free ready-to-teach, industry-development curriculum for all of America’s public community colleges – to support delivery of this curriculum, Microsoft will also provide faculty at all these institutions with access to additional resources including free practice and certification exams
  • Build educator and administrative capacity in cybersecurity learning paths – Microsoft will partner with the National Cybersecurity Training & Education Center to provide training for new and existing faculty at 150 community colleges and will further provide grants to fund and provide technical assistance to 42 community colleges
  • Provide scholarships and supplemental resources to 25,000 students – a new national Microsoft Cybersecurity Scholarship Program will offer scholarships and additional resources to reach at least 25,000 students over the next four years, and in partnership with the Last Mile Education Fund, will provide scholarships to 10,000 low-income students, including veterans.
  • Support for critical tools for success – this will include mentorship from Microsoft employees, along with free LinkedIn Premium accounts to help close the networking gap and connect them to jobs.

Cybersecurity jobs shortage

According to data compiled by Microsoft, there are 464,200 open jobs in the US that require cybersecurity skills. This accounts for 6% of all open jobs in the country meaning that one out of every 20 open jobs in America today is a job that requires cybersecurity skills. And every projection shows that the number of these jobs will grow ever more in the future.

For every two cybersecurity jobs in the US today, a third job is sitting empty because of a shortage of skilled people. And as Smith explains, they are great jobs paying an average of US$105,800 per year and don’t necessarily require a four-year college degree, but rather a certificate or associate degree from a community college, of which there are 1,044 in every state and territory.

And that’s why Microsoft is prepared to put its technology, financial resources, learning materials, connections and voice behind this new national campaign.

Microsoft's cybersecurity commitments

This announcement follows commitments Microsoft made following a White House cybersecurity summit in August with President Joe Biden and CEOs across a number of industries.

Recognising that no one has a higher responsibility to address cybersecurity threats than leading tech firms, the company said it would spend US$20bn over five years to advancing its security solutions and protecting its customers, and invest  US$150m to help US government agencies upgrade protections and further expand its cybersecurity training partnerships.

This comes as cybersecurity attacks continue to both grow and become more sophisticated, according to Microsoft’s Digital Defense Report, which encompasses learnings from security experts, practitioners and defenders at Microsoft to empower people everywhere to defend against cyberthreats.


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