Google pledges $20M to expand free cybersecurity clinics across US

Google is pledging $20 million to open more hands-on cybersecurity clinics across the US in an effort to help plug the nation’s cybersecurity workforce gap and stay ahead of evolving threats.

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the initiative Thursday in collaboration with the US Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics at an event in Washington DC.

“This funding will support the creation and expansion of cybersecurity clinics at 20 higher education institutions across the US,” Pichai said.

During his remarks, the CEO also cited “AI as one of the most critical technologies that will impact national security over the next decade.”

PIchai said the free clinics will give students more opportunities to learn, the same way law or medical schools offer free clinics in their communities.

“They give students the opportunity to learn and improve their skills while helping to protect critical infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, and energy grids,” he said.

Investing in America's cyber workforce

Each selected college, university, or community college will be awarded up to $1M to increase access and opportunities for students interested in pursuing careers in cybersecurity, the Consortium said.

Google employees with industry expertise will serve as volunteer mentors at many of the hands-on learning clinics.

The application process for schools that want to be chosen for the program begins in October 2023, but administrators can find more information on how to apply on Google’s website.

Last month, the tech giant introduced a new entry-level cybersecurity Google Career Certificate, now part of the initiative.

The new Google Cybersecurity Certificate can be earned in as little as three months, with no experience needed to enroll. Scholarships will also be offered for students unable to afford the certificate training.

More than 200,000 individuals in the US and over half a million people worldwide have already been trained and certified in Google’s certificate program, according to Pichai.

Additionally, Google announced a new research program with several New York universities to expand security learning, boost career opportunities, and spark innovation.

Pichai said the clinics will also be presented with a complimentary Google phishing-resistant Titan Security Key to implement two-factor authentication.

Skills gap and combating risk

According to Google, there are currently more than 750,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the US.

Since 2017, the Grow with Google core initiative has partnered with thousands of organizations to train and prepare more than ten million American workers to join the technology sector.

Pichai spoke about his own experiences starting out at Google early on in his career building the Chrome browser.

“Security was critical to the work I did,” Pichai said.

“Today, it’s core to everything we do, and the current inflection point in AI is helping take our efforts to the next level," the CEO said.

Google execs are hoping the new clinic program will also help to improve the diversity of workers in the security industry – statistically shown to underrepresent Hispanic, Black, and female workers.

The CEO noted the number of cyber-attacks globally had increased by 38% in 2022, placing critical infrastructure such as governments, hospitals, and electrical grids at greater risk.

These attacks have cost the US economy billions of dollars over the past five years, he said.

“As a nation, we need a strong cybersecurity workforce to help us stay ahead of new and evolving threats.”