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IBM today announced it will provide no-cost job training to U.S. military veterans, students at six historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), and neurodivergent learners. Other partners in the collaboration are the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Specialisterne Foundation.

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According to the press release, in 2021, IBM Chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna pledged to partner with HBCUs to establish Cybersecurity Leadership Centers, with the goal of building a more diverse U.S. cyber workforce with enhanced skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.

Today, IBM announced the first centers at North Carolina A&T State University (N.C. A&T), the Southern University System, Clark Atlanta University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Morgan State University, and South Carolina State University. A total of twenty is planned.

“We believe that the most promising candidates for today’s demanding careers will come from communities that may have been overlooked due to outdated hiring policies and old-fashioned credentialling,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, vice president of IBM corporate social responsibility and environmental, social, and governance, in a statement. “That’s why we’re uniting the public, private, and not-for-sector sectors to cultivate STEM talent from underrepresented communities to address the world’s most critical challenges.”

For each HBCU and HBCU system, IBM said it will develop a customized IBM Security Learning Academy portal with courses designed to help the university enhance its cybersecurity education portfolio. In addition, IBM will continue to give access to IBM Academic Programs.

Participant universities will have access to a customized, multi-year cybersecurity experience with IBM, including cybersecurity curricula, cloud access, and an immersive learning experience to expand the capacity to develop top talent in the cybersecurity sector, according to the press release.

“NC A&T State University being chosen as one of the first six HBCU Cybersecurity Leadership Centers is a great privilege,” said Hossein Sarrafzadeh, director of the Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity Research, Education, and Outreach at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. “IBM recognizes the untapped talent at HBCUs and with this investment they are building a cybersecurity education infrastructure that will propel underrepresented communities to the forefront of security leadership.”

Dr. Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System, said they were proud to partner in this initiative that will offer programming and other opportunities to students.

Dr. Nikunja Swain, chair and professor of the computer science and mathematics department at South Carolina State University, said the new initiative will further enhance ongoing activities in key areas, including cybersecurity, data science analytics, cloud computing, IoT, blockchain, design thinking, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence.”

Dr. Anne McCall, provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs at the Xavier University of Louisiana, said the partnership will help America meet the growing need for skilled professionals in the cyberspace workforce.

Clark Atlanta University also welcomed the expanded collaboration to build a more diverse and innovative U.S. cyber workforce. Silvanus Udoka, dean of the School of Business Administration, said it was an amazing opportunity to prepare students who will develop cutting-edge technology to solve cybersecurity challenges and better protect organizations in a challenging and uncertain global security environment.

HBCU faculty and students will have an opportunity to benefit from IBM Security’s Command Center, through which they can experience a highly realistic, simulated cyberattack, designed to prepare them and train them on response techniques. Moreover, HBCUs’ faculty will have access to consultation sessions with IBM technical personnel on cybersecurity. IBM will provide faculty and students with no-cost access to multiple SaaS IBM Cloud environments.

“The Morgan State University CAP Center is excited about this partnership opportunity as we work together with IBM to address the high workforce demand in the cybersecurity industry,” said Dr. Kevin T. Kornegay, professor and Internet of Things (IoT) Security Endowed Chair, Morgan State University.

Together with the Specialisterne Foundation, IBM SkillsBuild will be tailored to the job training needs of neurodivergent individuals across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Iceland, Australia, and Western Europe. Specialisterne Foundation helps harness the talents of autistic persons and those with profiles such as ADHD, OCD, and dyslexia.

“We strongly believe that hiring diverse talent increases companies’ success,” said Steen Lohse, CEO and managing director of Specialisterne Foundation. “Neurodivergent people across the world will have access to free, online courses from IBM SkillsBuild on disruptive technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence), cybersecurity, and cloud computing, enabling employment for neurodivergent learners.”

According to Pew Research Center, a 2019 survey showed that 72% majority of U.S. adults said that if they were making the federal budget, they would increase spending on veterans’ benefits and services. It was the highest share of all program areas included in the survey, except for education (also 72%).

“We want Veterans to have as many pathways to employment and career success as possible,” said Michael Frueh, VA’s Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits, in the IBM statement released Tuesday, May 10. “This is an urgent need and goes beyond hiring. This partnership will offer our Veterans a unique opportunity to obtain skills and find job opportunities across companies and industries.”


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