Partnering to close the cybersecurity workforce gap


A new partnership – and big investment from Microsoft – will work to meet the nation’s demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals.

For every two cybersecurity jobs filled in the United States, there’s a third job that’s open. But “the country has an extraordinary asset to help solve this problem: it’s the nation’s community colleges,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said at a press conference Thursday. Two-year colleges have the people needed to not only grow the workforce but also diversify it, he said.

The company will partner with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Whatcom Community College and its National Cybersecurity Training & Education Center and the Last Mile Education Fund to provide cybersecurity training and financial and other assistance to students, and professional development opportunities for faculty.

The goal of the campaign is to help fill 250,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. by 2025.

Critical investments

Microsoft will make curriculum available free of charge to all the nation’s public community colleges, provide training for new and existing faculty at 150 community colleges and offer scholarships and supplemental resources to 25,000 students.

AACC and Microsoft will work together to launch a community of practice for institutions offering cybersecurity education. Grant funds and technical assistance will be provided to 42 community colleges to accelerate their cybersecurity programs and capture best practices.

“The beauty of this being a national program is that we’ll be able to take everything we learn and scale it at a national level,” said Martha Parham, AACC’s senior vice president of public relations.

The National Cybersecurity Training & Education (NCyTE) Center at Whatcom Community College in Washington received a $1.5 million Microsoft grant to help close the cybersecurity skills gap. NCyTE Center staff will help other colleges with cybersecurity program development and provide resources and mentorship to those colleges. The center also will prepare and diversify cybersecurity faculty at colleges.

“NCyTE will impact hundreds of faculty and thousands of students at community colleges across the country through trainings, workshops and access to Microsoft tools and opportunities,” said Whatcom President Kathi Hiyane-Brown.

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Partnering with the Last Mile Education Fund, a Maryland-based non-profit, Microsoft will launch the Microsoft Cybersecurity Scholarship Program, providing scholarships to 25,000 people by 2025. In addition to financial assistance, students will receive wraparound supports, such as mentorship and counseling, and access to internships and help with networking.

Smith said he knows it will take time to meet the cybersecurity workforce demand but believes the partners “can make a real dent” within the next 24 months, particularly by mobilizing the nation’s community colleges.

This campaign from Microsoft comes just months after the company pledged to invest $20 billion over five years to integrate cybersecurity into products and establish a $150 million program to provide funds to federal, state and local governments to enhance cybersecurity.

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