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A number of companies pledged to do their parts to help assuage the shortage of cybersecurity professionals during the White House National Cyber Workforce and Education Summit on Tuesday.

The summit’s goal was to “raise the bar on cybersecurity through greater awareness, education and training,’’ the White House said in a statement. It was also designed as “a call to action — to ensure that all Americans can capitalize on the benefits of the digital domain.”

Among the participating companies was (ISC)², a nonprofit association of certified cybersecurity professionals, which announced the (ISC)² One Million Certified in Cybersecurity program. The program pledges to put one million people through its foundational Certified in Cybersecurity entry-level certification exam and education program for free.

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The association noted that research suggests organizations that focus on recruiting and developing entry-level cybersecurity staff — including those with little or no technical experience — accelerate the hands-on training the next generation of professionals needs to start a successful cybersecurity career.

Those who earn the (ISC)² Certified in Cybersecurity certification will demonstrate to employers that they have the foundational knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for an entry-level cybersecurity role, the association said.

“We support the aims of the Biden Administration, the U.S. national cyber director and administrations around the world focused on this critical issue,’’ said Clar Rosso, CEO of (ISC)², in a statement. “We are proud to announce this initiative alongside so many others who share a strong commitment to addressing our cybersecurity workforce challenges and look forward to building the public-private partnerships needed to accomplish our goal of One Million Certified in Cybersecurity.”

Program details

(ISC)² will open registration starting in September. Qualified individuals will receive a free exam as well as access to the (ISC)² Certified in Cybersecurity online self-paced education course. The course provides a review of the subject matter published in the Certified in Cybersecurity exam outline, which covers the security concepts that the certification candidates will be evaluated on, including:

  • Security principles
  • Business continuity, disaster recovery and incident response concepts
  • Access controls concepts
  • Network security
  • Security operations

University students, recent graduates, career changers and other professionals wishing to expand their skills and opportunities are encouraged to participate, especially individuals employed or seeking employment within small and mid-sized businesses.

(ISC)² said it would work closely with new and existing partner organizations to reach historically underrepresented populations and encourage greater diversity within the cybersecurity community. The association has pledged that half of the expanded commitment — 500,000-course enrollments and exams — will be directed toward students of historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, tribal organizations and women’s organizations across the U.S. and the globe.

After successfully completing the exam, candidates will become (ISC)² members with access to a wide array of professional development resources to help them throughout their careers.

(ISC)² estimates a global cybersecurity workforce gap of more than 2.7 million. While the U.S. cybersecurity workforce comprises more than 1.14 million people, according to the association, the federal government estimates the country has more than 700,000 cybersecurity job vacancies.

Other companies announce training initiatives

Also at the summit, Cisco announced its commitment to training an additional 200,000 students in the U.S. over the next three years.

The company’s corporate education program, Cisco Networking Academy, partners with 49% of the nation’s community and technical colleges and 48 of the nation’s 107 HBCUs, the company said.

“While the cyber workforce deficit constitutes a near- and long-term threat to our national and economic security, it also represents an opportunity to employ a more diverse and inclusive workforce in jobs with low barriers to entry and substantial income potential,’’ said Francine Katsoudas, executive vice president and chief people, policy and purpose officer, in a blog announcing Cisco’s commitment. “To close this gap and leverage the related employment opportunities, we need to ensure that cybersecurity training and education is available to broader segments of society who use information and communications technology in our rapidly changing world.”

Fortinet announced that its information security awareness and training service will be made available to schools across the United States, free of cost. The expansion of the company’s free training offerings is part of Fortinet’s commitment to train one million people in cybersecurity by 2026 to make a significant dent in addressing the skills gap, the company said.

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