Microsoft launches skills initiative to support Covid-19 recovery
Microsoft has announced an initiative aimed at helping up to 25 million people worldwide to acquire new digital skills to support the economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a webcast, company CEO Satya Nadella said the initiative would take a three-pronged approach to identify the most in demand jobs; provide tools to match skills to jobs; and provide system of learning in Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft president Brad Smith characterised the scale of the issue, stating that by the end of 2020, there will be more people unemployed than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Smith said that long terms trends would likely see more jobs becoming digitised and automated, while at the same time there has been a decades long decline in investment in employee training. This cumulative circumstance requires a principled approach, said Smith.
This would comprise using data and technology to help people, and focus on a broad set of skills. The initiative will ask employers to do more to help everyone, and Microsoft will rely on partners too. It will also draw on every part of the company and its wider ecosystem, while using its voice in public policy.
At the heart of the initiative is free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require. This will be combined with low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop the skills pursue new jobs.
Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn and Github will all be leveraged to gather data, turning it into guides, resources and training, as well as certifications.
The company said this is “a comprehensive technology initiative that will build on data and digital technology.”
“It starts with data on jobs and skills from the LinkedIn Economic Graph. It provides free access to content in LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and the GitHub Learning Lab, and couples those with Microsoft Certifications and LinkedIn job seeking tools. These resources can all be accessed at a central location, opportunity.linkedin.com, and will be broadly available online in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish.”
In addition, the company said it is making available $20 million in cash grants to help non-profit organisations worldwide “assist the people who need it most”.
Some $5 million of this fund will be provided in cash grants to community-based non-profit organisations that are led by and serve communities of colour in the United States, said the announcement.
Microsoft is also pledging to make stronger data and analytics, including that from the LinkedIn Economic Graph, available to governments and policy makers around the world to enable them to better assess local economic needs.
“Covid-19 has created both a public health and an economic crisis, and as the world recovers, we need to ensure no one is left behind,” said Nadella. “Today, we’re bringing together resources from Microsoft inclusive of LinkedIn and GitHub to reimagine how people learn and apply new skills – and help 25 million people facing unemployment due to COVID-19 prepare for the jobs of the future.”
“The biggest brunt of the current downturn is being borne by those who can afford it the least,” said Smith. “Unemployment rates are spiking for people of colour and women, as well as younger workers, people with disabilities and individuals with less formal education. Our goal is to combine the best in technology with stronger partnerships with governments and nonprofits to help people develop the skills needed to secure a new job.”