Microsoft has announced an initiative to bring digital skills training to 25m people, helping workers affected by the pandemic to upskill or find new roles.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky have announced a new initiative aiming to bring free digital skills training to 25m people worldwide this year.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the programme aims to identify in-demand areas and skills, and provide resources to help workers upskill or find new roles. It will bring together different parts of the company, combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub and Microsoft’s software and cloud businesses.
Microsoft is backing the effort with $20m in cash grants to help non-profit organisations worldwide assist people who need support in gaining relevant skills for these jobs, with one-quarter of the funding going to non-profits that are led by and serve communities of colour in the US.
“Covid-19 has created both a public health and an economic crisis,” Nadella commented. “And as the world recovers, we need to ensure no one is left behind.”
In a blogpost published by Microsoft president Brad Smith, he acknowledged that 2020 has been one of the “most challenging years in many of our lifetimes”.
“As societies reopen, it’s apparent that the economy in July will not be what it was in January,” Smith wrote. “Increasingly, one of the key steps needed to foster a safe and successful economic recovery is expanded access to the digital skills needed to fill new jobs.”
The company’s plan will be grounded in three areas: the use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them; free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require; and low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.
According to LinkedIn data, the roles with the greatest number of job openings available, which have had steady growth in recent years and require skills that can be learned online, are: software developer, sales representative, project manager, IT administrator, customer service specialist, digital marketer, IT support or helpdesk, data analyst, financial analyst and graphic designer.
“Our vision for skills extends beyond these immediate steps for jobseekers,” Smith added. “Employees will also need to skill and reskill through their careers, and we want to make it easier for employers to help. Our vision is a connected ‘system of learning’ that helps empower everyone to pursue lifelong learning.”
‘The largest skills initiative in Microsoft history’
Microsoft also announced the launch of a new learning app in Microsoft Teams to help employers upskill new and existing employees, bringing together content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party training providers and a company’s own learning content.
“We are also pledging that we will make stronger data and analytics available to governments around the world so they can better assess local needs,” Smith wrote. “Finally, we will use our voice to advocate for public policy innovations that we believe will advance the skilling opportunities people will need in the changed economy.
“While this represents the largest skills initiative in Microsoft’s history, we recognise that no company can come close to closing the skills gap alone. Sustained progress will require a renewed partnership between stakeholders across the public, private and non-profit sectors, and we’re committed to supporting this.”
Roslansky added that LinkedIn has a “unique ability” to help job seekers around the world, through its role in the Microsoft ecosystem, and that the company particularly wants to help those that have been “disproportionately disadvantaged” during the Covid-19 crisis.
“We’re proud to be bringing the right data about what jobs and skills of the future will be to create the right learning paths to help 25m job seekers find their next opportunities,” Roslansky said. “We’re making it all available at opportunity.linkedin.com.”