IBM will create cybersecurity leadership centers at six Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as part of an initiative to provide job training to members of underrepresented communities and address a widespread worker shortage, the company announced last month.
The plan is a partial fulfillment of a pledge made by IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, who said last year that the company would do its part to build “a more robust and diverse cyber workforce” in the midst of an increased demand for cybersecurity workers.
The six HBCUs selected as hosts of cybersecurity leadership centers so far are North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the Southern University System, Clark Atlanta University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Morgan State University and South Carolina State University. The company says it plans to expand to more than 20 HBCUs in the future.
Each of those universities will gain access to cybersecurity curricula through a custom-made IBM Security Learning Academy portal, gain no-cost access to several Software as a Service and IBM Cloud environments, and be able to participate in training exercises like simulated cyberattacks through the IBM Security Command Center.
IBM announced in the same press release that it is also launching educational programs with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the nonprofit Specialisterne Foundation to support military veterans and neurodivergent learners, respectively, in cybersecurity.
“We believe that the most promising job candidates for today’s demanding careers will come from communities that may have been historically overlooked or excluded due to outdated hiring policies and old-fashioned credentialling,” says Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM’s vice president for corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and corporate governance. “That’s why we’re uniting the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors to cultivate STEM talent from underrepresented communities to address the world’s most critical challenges.”
The initiative also seeks to help bridge a wide chasm in the United States between the number of cybersecurity jobs and the workers to fill them. Data tracked by Cyberseek show there were nearly 600,000 cybersecurity job openings in the United States as of September 2021, leaving more than 36 percent of all cybersecurity jobs vacant. And a 2020 report by ManpowerGroup found that 69 percent of employers were struggling to find skilled workers, a staggering jump from just 14 percent a decade earlier.
“As we know, technology-related services are in constant demand, and cybersecurity is paramount,” says Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System. “Consistent growth in all areas of industry requires a well-prepared workforce. We are proud to partner in this initiative that will offer in-demand programming and opportunities to our students, adding to a diverse global marketplace.”
IBM pledged last year to educate 30 million people for the “jobs of tomorrow” by 2030 through various initiatives around the world.