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Microsoft president Brad Smith. Photo: Demetrius Freeman-Pool/Getty Images

Microsoft announced Thursday that it's launching a national campaign to help fill 250,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. by 2025, including by providing free curriculum to every public community college.

Why it matters: The company's president Brad Smith warned that the current workforce shortage is at crisis levels and threatens to undermine the country's ability to protect itself against cyber and ransomware attacks.

The big picture: The demand for cybersecurity workers is far outstripping the supply, as cyberattacks by foreign government and non-state actors have caused unprecedented disruptions to federal agencies, supply chains and individual businesses over the last year.

  • About 263,000 people have joined the cybersecurity workforce in the U.S. in 2020 and 2021 — and yet the number of open cyber jobs still has increased by 17,000, according to a report by cyber nonprofit (ISC)2.
  • One-third of all cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled due to the workforce shortage, according to Microsoft. The gap is currently estimated to be nearly 500,000 open jobs, which Microsoft believes it can halve in the next four years.

Driving the news: In addition to providing free, certificate-oriented curriculum to more than 1,000 community colleges, Microsoft will train faculty at 150 schools and provide scholarships to 25,000 students.

  • The company believes that the 11.8 million Americans who currently attend community colleges are the "single greatest potential asset" the U.S. can leverage to solve the skilled labor shortage while also helping diversify a cyber workforce dominated by white men.
  • The new initiative will build on Microsoft's commitment this year to invest $20 billion over years in cybersecurity, including $150 million to help shore up federal government protections.

Go deeper

Philly School District staff shortage compounds pandemic challenges

An unidentified student exits the bus on her way to school. Photo: William Thomas Cain/Getty

Philadelphia school staff members are spreading themselves thin as the district struggles to fill many vacant positions amid an ongoing worker shortage.

Driving the news: About 50 district administrative staff members will be temporarily teaching classes, monitoring cafeterias and answering phones in a handful of schools starting this week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

33 mins ago - Health

First known U.S. case of the Omicron variant identified in California

PhotoL Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.

Supreme Court appears likely to roll back abortion rights

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to weaken abortion rights and perhaps to let states ban the procedure altogether.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to throw out the framework established in Roe v. Wade, but it wasn't clear whether a majority of the justices were inclined to overturn the court's precedents entirely.