How to get free cybersecurity training from industry leader IBM

BY Sydney LakeJuly 28, 2022, 11:49 AM
Athletics fields at the IBM Silicon Valley Laboratory in San Jose, California, as seen in January 2022. (Photographer: David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The cybersecurity industry is ripe for an influx of new professionals entering the field. In fact, there are nearly three-quarters of a million cybersecurity positions left to be filled, according to a report by Emsi Burning Glass (now Lightcast), a market research company. 

And every year that demand continues to climb. Worldwide, the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs jumped 350% between 2013 and 2021, from 1 million to 3.5 million, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. While there are more than enough positions to be filled, there aren’t nearly enough qualified personnel to fill them. 

Field jobs require specific training—whether it comes from certification programs, online courses, master’s degrees in cybersecurity, or other company training programs. A prime example of a company focused on growing a pipeline of cybersecurity talent is IBM, the Fortune 500 IT-management and hardware company. 

In August 2021, IBM Chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna announced a commitment to train more than 150,000 people in cybersecurity skills during the next three years as cybercrime continues to rise.

“Businesses and government share a collective responsibility to collaborate on preventing cyberattacks that could have a devastating impact or prompt national or global crises,” Krishna wrote in a statement. “We must join forces now to shore up the security of the critical infrastructure that keeps our society functioning.”

In conjunction with the White House’s National Cyber Workforce and Education Summit held in mid-July, IBM also announced the creation of more talent pipelines for cybersecurity jobs, including its new Cybersecurity Leadership Centers with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority serving institutions. IBM is also partnering with the American Council on Education to translate cybersecurity apprenticeships to college credits.

How IBM’s training program works

IBM has offered free skills training for professionals interested in a cybersecurity career for many years, along with other educational programs, says Justina Nixon-Saintil, vice president and global head of IBM corporate social responsibility. Anyone can take these courses; they’re not available only to employees.

“As part of IBM’s commitment to skill 30 million people globally by 2030, we are providing free education on key technologies like cybersecurity, with a focus on underrepresented communities,” Nixon-Saintil tells Fortune. “Whether learners are just entering the workforce or switching professions, IBM SkillsBuild equips them with the foundational skills to pursue high-demand, lucrative careers.” 

Students can visit IBM’s SkillsBuild platform to explore different course options based on jobs they’re interested in pursuing, including a cybersecurity analyst. To sign up for courses, students need to create an account with IBM, which asks for simple demographic information, skills, and interests. Then, students can search the platform for courses of interest.

IBM offers three levels of cybersecurity content. Basic training provides an overview about what cybersecurity is; the foundational level gets into key skills needed for cybersecurity jobs and understanding what jobs are out there; and the cybersecurity analyst program is “aligned to a junior cybersecurity analyst role and provides the learner with the skills and competencies to do the job,” Nixon-Saintil says. All courses are available in 12 languages, and the cybersecurity fundamentals training takes about six hours to complete.

Upon completion of the online skills training, students receive a digital badge that can be added to a resume or social media platform for potential employers to see. All of the courses were developed to align with existing cybersecurity jobs, Nixon-Saintil says. 

Through its SkillsBuild platform, IBM also offers free courses in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, blockchain, data science, quantum computing, and emerging technologies.

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