It’s one thing to talk about a problem. It’s another thing to do something about it. There are a lot of reasons many industries are feeling the impact of the cybersecurity talent shortage. But it takes effort – and resources – to fill the gap. Cybersecurity jobs often compensate well, with national averages showing salaries in the six-figure range for unfilled cyber positions. According to a Microsoft report, one out of every 20 open jobs in the U.S. is a cybersecurity job, with an average annual salary of $105,800. But despite the higher salaries in cybersecurity, the talent gap still exists. And one aspect of the problem is that it’s been challenging to create affordable ways to build cybersecurity skills in the workforce.

Last fall, Microsoft took an active role to skill and recruit thousands more for the cybersecurity workforce. Their goal is to use their status as a leading tech company and get 250,000 more people into the cybersecurity workforce by 2025. While Microsoft plans to hire some of those new employees, most will find roles at other employers. While Microsoft has committed funding to security solutions and U.S. government agencies, they are also tackling this problem at the education level.

Microsoft Invests in Community Colleges

Microsoft is making major investments in the U.S. community colleges – an often overlooked asset. Community college students are typically diverse and affordable. They’re also all over the country, and they meet the needs for students of all ages. So, Microsoft’s four-year campaign is committing to a few things.

1. Make curriculum available free of charge to all of the nation’s public community colleges.

Microsoft is giving every U.S. community college access to free curriculum, educator training, and teaching tools. The resources will align with certification course materials for Microsoft.

2. Provide training for new and existing faculty at 150 community colleges.

But just because you get the curriculum doesn’t always mean you have the staff to teach. So, Microsoft is working with the colleges to train and retain their cybersecurity faculty. And community colleges that are accelerating their cybersecurity programs will receive grants and technical assistance too.

3. Provide scholarships and supplemental resources to 25,000 students.

One of the key benefits of taking cybersecurity education to community colleges is that it offers affordable education options to a diverse talent pool. Diversity is truly a force multiplier in understanding the people behind the cyber problems. And Microsoft is offering scholarship programs for at least 25,000 students for the next four years. The funding is intended to supplement existing federal and state financial programs, and it can be used to cover various financial barriers to education – like childcare.

With empty cybersecurity billets, it’s important to find unique ways to address the issue.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.