Private sector companies and government agencies announced April 9 that they would be teaming up to institute a cybersecurity talent pipeline to address the general lack of cybersecurity professionals in the United States and specifically a lack of young cyber talent in the government.

The Cyber Talent Initiative — a collaboration between Mastercard, Microsoft, Workday, the Partnership for Public Service and 11 government agencies — will give recent graduates experience in the cyber field while helping to reduce student loan debt for those that complete the program.

“Cybersecurity is a critical issue facing our world today. It will take a true collaboration between the public and private sectors to get the right resources in place to address the threat,” said Ron Green, chief security officer at Mastercard in a news release.

“We invite more corporations and government agencies to join us in this critical endeavor and give the best and brightest talent an opportunity to get a step up, enhance their skills and pave their own career paths.”

Participants selected for the program will be placed to work at a government agency for two years, after which, they are eligible for a full-time position at the program’s private sector partners and up to $75,000 in student loan assistance.

Participating agencies include:

  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Federal Election Commission
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Office of Naval Intelligence
  • Small Business Administration

“The Army is pleased to join the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative and partner with top companies and universities across the country to develop cybersecurity talent and provide them with opportunities that help support our nation’s defense,” Brig. Gen. Jennifer Buckner, director of headquarters for the Department of the Army’s Cyber, Electronic Warfare and Information Operations, said in a news release.

“This program reflects not only our emphasis on, but also the immense value we see in public-private partnerships to collaboratively address the country’s cyberspace talent deficit.”

The federal government currently struggles to attract young, recent graduates to its cybersecurity positions, with only 4.2% of the federal cyber workforce under 30 years old.

“It is critical for our government to attract and hire highly skilled workers capable of securing federal computer networks and building defenses against the thousands of cyberattacks that occur every year,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, in a statement.

“The federal government has fallen more and more behind in the race for cyber talent, and this program will help get it back on track.”

Applicants have until Oct. 18 to submit their information for the program, and agencies intend to make offers by spring 2020.