Across all sectors, industries, and verticals, the cybersecurity industry is experiencing a crisis. The statistics are pretty damning. Currently, there are an estimated 464,200 open cybersecurity jobs in the United States alone, making up 6% of all job vacancies. Moreover, for every two cybersecurity jobs filled, another remains empty due to the cybersecurity skills shortage.
That means that more than 1 out of every 20 open jobs in the U.S. right now is for a cybersecurity role. And, the current number of cybersecurity job openings accounts for 45% of the total cybersecurity workforce. You can take a deep dive into the current dynamic thanks to this helpful PowerBI dashboard created by Microsoft.
This is not only the case in the U.S. but is a challenge facing the global cybersecurity community. The skills shortage is even more deeply felt when it comes to high-priority positions, such as CISOs.
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This is not good news, as the cybercrime landscape is only getting more sophisticated and threatening with time, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid this unprecedented drought, businesses, government agencies, and cybersecurity service providers are all feeling the pinch. Now, on the back of a drive by the U.S. government to fill cybersecurity roles, Microsoft has announced that it too is aiming to train over 250k new cybersecurity workers.
So, how does Microsoft hope to achieve this remarkable feat?
It seems like without fully taking on the responsibility of training the new generation of cybersecurity professionals, Microsoft is developing a plan to work with nonprofit groups, businesses, as well as conventional (colleges, universities) and unconventional educational institutions.
Microsoft sees community colleges as a key asset in growing the cybersecurity workforce, with over 1,000 community colleges spread across all 50 U.S. states. They are also more flexible, diverse, affordable, and more receptive to various educational backgrounds than universities.
Diversity is a crucial obstacle to overcome with a demographic that’s 82.4% male and 80% white. This lack of diversity is not only important from a social standpoint but is acting as a bottleneck stifling the expansion of the workforce.
However, community colleges, particularly those in rural regions, still face some barriers when it comes to educating the next generation of cybersecurity professionals:
- There is a lack of access to state-of-the-art curriculums, materials, and resources to launch cybersecurity programs.
- Training, updating, and advancing the skills and knowledge of their faculty within the field of cybersecurity.
- The limited availability of financial aid and additional learning services to help more students pursue cybersecurity degrees and certificates.
Microsoft has committed to providing wide-ranging support to the nation’s community colleges by providing resources to address these obstacles:
- Make curriculum available free of charge to all of the nation’s public community colleges (~4,000 accredited higher education institutions).
- Provide training for new and existing faculty at 150 community colleges.
- Provide scholarships and supplemental resources to 25,000 students through the new Microsoft Cybersecurity Scholarship Program.
As one of the largest I.T. companies in the world, Microsoft has the existing infrastructure and resources to assist in tackling many of these issues. For example, they will leverage their existing training and learning paths, such as Microsoft Security, Compliance and Identity Fundamentals (SC-900), and Microsoft Azure Security Technologies (AZ-500) certification to provide cutting-edge courses aligned with real-world requirements.
Thanks to the current situation, cybersecurity professionals are also some of the most sought-after talents in a range of fields. Salaries average around $105,800 per year but can quickly multiply for full-time, high-level roles, such as CISOs (Chief Information Security Officers).
With more initiatives like these, there might just be some light at the end of the tunnel for the global cybersecurity community to develop the necessary manpower, talent, and resources to deal with the growing threat landscape.
America faces a cybersecurity skills crisis: Microsoft launches national campaign to help community colleges expand the cybersecurity workforce