Microsoft to work with community colleges to fill 250,000 cyber security roles

Free course materials will be supplied to every community college in the US

Microsoft is working with community colleges in the US to help fill over 250,000 cyber security roles across the country over the next four years.

The move comes in response to the company's investigation into the SolarWinds cyber attack, which found that many customers are in urgent need of more cyber security expertise.

Microsoft said curriculum materials will be freely available to all community college students across the US. The company will also provide training for new and existing faculty members at 150 colleges, and provide scholarships and supplemental resources to 25,000 students.

The Microsoft Learn for Educators programme will include course materials for the Microsoft Security, Compliance and Identity Fundamentals (SC-900), and Microsoft Azure Security Technologies (AZ-500) certifications. It will also provide faculty with access to practice and certification exams, curriculum integration support, course delivery prep sessions, and entry to its global community of educators. Microsoft added it would give the institutions easy access to courses through LinkedIn Learning.

The company has also partnered with National Cybersecurity Training & Education Center (NCyTE) to provide faculty with deeper professional development opportunities and to support these institutions in attaining the Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) designation. Grants to fund and provide technical assistance to 42 community colleges that are accelerating their cyber security programmes will also  be included in the programme.

Lastly, the tech giant is launching the new national Microsoft Cybersecurity Scholarship Program, which will provide scholarships and additional resources for at least 25,000 students over the next four years. The funding will be used on tuition costs, certification exam costs, and childcare expenses. This will also provide mentorship from Microsoft employees and student supports, free LinkedIn Premium accounts, GitHub education benefits, and access to local GitHub sponsored events. It will give 10,000 of these scholarships to low-income students, including veterans, at community colleges pursuing cyber security pathways and certifications, the company confirmed.

“Community colleges are the single greatest potential asset the United States has in expanding the cybersecurity workforce. They are one of the nation’s most remarkable and ubiquitous assets, and with some targeted assistance, they can move quickly to help address the cybersecurity workforce shortage,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft president and vice chair.

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Smith added that Microsoft’s work alongside customers to respond to the cyber attack against SolarWinds earlier this year was slowed due to a shortage of cyber security workers across the industry. Specifically, it found there were not enough people with the training needed to read all the materials it was publishing on how to deal with the attack.

Microsoft has also found that many businesses are still struggling to hire employees with cyber security skills, highlighting that for every two cyber security jobs in the US today, a third job is sitting empty. It also found that one out of every 20 jobs in the US today is a job that requires cyber security skills.

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