Microsoft is expanding its cybersecurity skills program, first launched in the U.S. in October, 2021, to 23 additional countries globally.
The expanded campaign spans the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
“These countries have an elevated cyber threat risk, coupled with a significant gap in their cybersecurity work forces both in terms of the number of professionals employed in cybersecurity vs. the demand, as well as a lack of diversity,” wrote Kate Behncken, Microsoft vice president and philanthropic program lead, in a blog post.
Cybersecurity Training: Diversity, Equity and and Inclusion
One goal of the expansion is to bring cybersecurity skill development to women and other underrepresented groups, Behncken said. “The global cybersecurity workforce is woefully lacking in diversity: in the countries where we are expanding our campaign, on average, only 17% of the cybersecurity workforce are female,” she said. “Leaving women out of the cybersecurity workforce leaves talent on the table and will only hurt our ability to close the skills gap. This isn’t just about equality, there’s a business case too: gender-diverse businesses perform better.”
Microsoft estimates the demand for qualified cybersecurity staffers will number some 3.5 million people worldwide by 2025. The war in Ukraine has made it clear the immediate need for cybersecurity pros to combat misinformation and potential hacking offensives by Russian state sponsored operatives.
This program expansion features five primary elements:
- A new partnership with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop a detailed study on the skills gap in selected countries and improve the ability to grow cybersecurity work forces through post secondary education and training.
- Free training for cybersecurity pathways through its LinkedIn Learning platform.
- Access to free curriculum, educator training and tools for teaching for institutions of higher learning to include coursework on various Microsoft platforms. Additional resources including free practice and certification exams and curriculum integration support.
- A partnership with Ecole 42, a tuition-free global computer science training program with a mission to educate the next generation of software engineers, to make Microsoft cybersecurity content available to its 15,000 learners globally, using peer-to-peer learning and gamification.
- A partnership with Women in Cybersecurity, a nonprofit with the mission of recruiting, retaining and advancing women in cybersecurity, to expand their student chapters in the 23 countries.
Microsoft Cybersecurity Training: Key Relationships
Microsoft said it will also work with local education institutions, nonprofits, governments and businesses to develop a cybersecurity skills program that fits the unique needs of their own market in each country.
In the initial rollout last year, Microsoft partnered with U.S. community colleges to help skill and recruit into the cybersecurity workforce 250,000 people by 2025, representing half of the country’s workforce shortage. The number of community colleges in the program now numbers 135 institutions, Microsoft said.
“It’s critical that we invest in the cybersecurity workforce to ensure there are enough people with the skills needed to thwart these attacks and protect the digital ecosystem to keep organizations secure and people safe,” Behncken said.
Cybersecurity Training for MSPs
Meanwhile, multiple organizations are striving to close the cybersecurity talent gap across the MSP ecosystem.
Also of note: MSPAlliance partnered with Boise State University and Stellar Cyber to create MSP-specific business, technical, and cybersecurity training, along with job placement tools, according to a March 2022 announcement. Stellar Cyber has been particularly active on the MSP training front. Similar to Apple's focus on college-level relationships, Stellar Cyber is building partnerships to educate students on Open XDR (eXtended Detection and Response) technologies and associated capabilities.
Additional insights from Joe Panettieri.