Microsoft will partner with community colleges across the U.S. and provide free resources in an attempt to help end a shortage of cybersecurity workers, the company announced Thursday.
The company believes it can reduce the country’s workforce shortage by half by 2025. It aims to help train and recruit 250,000 people into the cybersecurity workforce by then.
“We think we can make a meaningful difference in solving half of the cybersecurity jobs shortage,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a press conference Thursday, adding that “we should be optimistic that in the next 12-24 months we can start to make a real dent.”
The company announced it will provide a free curriculum to community colleges across the country, provide training for faculty at 150 community colleges and give scholarships and resources to 25,000 students as part of the effort.
Smith said data compiled by Microsoft shows that there is one open cybersecurity job for roughly every two that are filled in the U.S. And of all available positions in the U.S., more than one in 20 is a job requiring cybersecurity skills. Microsoft said such jobs pay an average of $105,800 per year and can range from chief information security officer roles to those requiring a mix of IT and cybersecurity know-how.
n addition to addressing the workforce shortage, Smith said the campaign will play an important role in diversifying the industry. Microsoft found that men hold 82.4% of cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. and 80% of those jobs are held by people who are white. According to data compiled by Microsoft, 57% of community college students in the U.S are women and 40% of students identify as Black, African American or Hispanic.
The announcement follows commitments Microsoft made after a White House cybersecurity summit in August with President Joe Biden and CEOs across several industries. Microsoft said at the time it would spend $20 billion over five years to deliver more advanced security tools and invest $150 million to help government agencies update their security systems and expand training partnerships in cybersecurity.
Several high-profile cyberattacks have drawn public attention to the potential risks associated with cybercrime. An attack on government software contractor SolarWinds revealed last year affected several federal agencies, for example, and a separate attack on Colonial Pipeline caused a major gas shortage in the Southeast.
Both the private sector and government officials have pointed to the workforce shortage as a persistent problem as they try to take on such breaches.