(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. is launching a national campaign with community colleges to help fill 250,000 cybersecurity jobs by 2025, amid a dire labor shortage in the critical field. 

The software giant will invest tens of millions of dollars into the initiative over the next few years, according to a blog post. Some of the new recruits will work at Microsoft but the vast majority will find jobs at tens of thousands of other employers across the country. 

“We cannot protect the county unless we fill the open cybersecurity jobs,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a presentation to media on Thursday. He thinks the nation’s 1,044 community colleges are the solution. 

Microsoft has been intimately affected by the shortage in the cybersecurity workforce. Last year, Russian hackers tampered with a software update from SolarWinds Corp. Microsoft, a SolarWinds customer, found “a few instances” of the malware in its computers and as it tried to help its clients protect themselves, the software giant discovered that a shortage of trained cybersecurity workers slowed its customers’ responses to the situation.  

Currently about 1 in 3 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. is left empty, and more than 1 in 20 jobs open in the U.S. requires cybersecurity skills. That amounts to about 460,000 jobs with an average salary of $105,800, according to Microsoft.

Many of those jobs don’t require a four-year college degree. That’s why Microsoft will provide a free cybersecurity curriculum to higher education institutions, work directly with 150 community colleges across the nation, and roll out a scholarship program for 25,000 students. Smith said community colleges are “an extraordinary asset,” noting there are currently 11.8 million students enrolled across the nation.  

An investment in community colleges will also help to diversify the cybersecurity workforce, Smith said. Currently, the industry is 80% male and 85% white. Community colleges are 40% Black, African American, or Hispanic and 57% of students are women. 

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