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Microsoft’s Solve for the Labor Shortage: Partnering With Community Colleges


If you can’t find workers who have the skills you’re looking for, it’s time to start training them.

That’s Microsoft’s plan to meet the increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals. The tech giant announced last week that, in response to the U.S.’s “cybersecurity skills crisis,” it is launching a four-year campaign in partnership with the nation’s community colleges to fill 250,000 cybersecurity jobs. It will provide a free, up-to-date cybersecurity curriculum to all accredited community colleges in the country, in addition to providing training to new and existing faculty at 150 community colleges, and supporting 25,000 students through a new scholarship program. Currently, cybersecurity roles account for 6 percent of all U.S. job openings, and one out of every 20 jobs open in the U.S. is a role that requires cybersecurity skills–and those numbers are projected to increase. 

Microsoft isn’t the only company to test this solution. The key to filling “new collar” jobs–roles that require a high level of skill but not necessarily a four-year college degree–is finding new ways to teach and train potential workers, according to research published by IBM in 2018. IBM launched a technical skills-development program for underserved high school students in 2011 with 600 industry partners, and expanded its career development efforts into community colleges in 2017.

Even smaller businesses can take note of these programs to fill open roles with appropriately skilled employees. As the worker shortage continues across virtually every industry, companies can turn to local community colleges as a labor source–if only they are willing to invest in training. As Tom Sullivan, vice president of small-business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recently told Inc.com, “from a small-business perspective, all hiring is local”–and a strong local reputation, paired with an increased investment in the community, may be the key to reducing worker shortages.

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