Microsoft initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a COVID-19 economy

Microsoft launches initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a COVID-19 economy by the end of 2020. The activities will be focused on three areas:

  1. Data and analytics to better understand in-demand skills and jobs

”Several years ago, LinkedIn automated the world’s first Economic Graph to track workforce trends and provide a window into emerging skills gaps. The Economic Graph is a digital representation of the global economy based on more than 690 million professionals, 50 million companies, 11 million job listings, 36,000 defined skills, and 90,000 schools. In short, it is all the data on LinkedIn and shows available jobs, their required skills, and the existing skills job seekers have.

The Economic Graph also makes it possible to spot in-demand skills, emerging jobs, and global hiring rates. These insights help connect LinkedIn members to better opportunities and assist governments and organisations as they create economic opportunity for the global workforce.

As part of this new initiative, LinkedIn is sharing free, real-time labour market data and skills insights to help governments, policymakers and business leaders understand what’s happening in their local labour markets: what companies are hiring, the top jobs companies are hiring for and the trending skills for those jobs.  This data can be accessed using a new interactive tool at Data is available for more than 180 countries and regions (150+ cities, 30+ countries). Users can search by country or region and download the data sets.

We have also used the Economic Graph as a critical planning resource for today’s skills initiative, by identifying the key jobs and horizontal skills that are most widely in demand and creating learning paths for these via LinkedIn Learning. Using this data, we identified 10 jobs that are in-demand in today’s economy and are well-positioned to continue to grow in the future. These 10 jobs were identified as having the greatest number of job openings, have had steady growth over the past four years, pay a liveable wage, and require skills that can be learned online are:

  1. Become a Software Developer
  2. Become a Sales Representative
  3. Become a Project Manager
  4. Become an IT administrator (Prepare for CompTIA Network+ Certification)
  5. Become a Customer Service Specialist
  6. Become a Digital Marketing Specialist
  7. Become IT Support / Help Desk (Prepare for the CompTIA A+ Certification)
  8. Become a Data Analyst
  9. Become a Financial Analyst
  10. Become a Graphic Designer

Much of our skills work is targeted at providing people with the skills for these disciplines.

Helping Job-seekers in the COVID-19 Economy
  • Free access to learning paths and comprehensive resources to help people develop the skills needed for in-demand jobs

To help people pursue jobs in these areas, we are making LinkedIn Learning paths aligned with each of these roles available free of charge through the end of March 2021. Each learning path includes a sequence of video content designed to help job seekers develop the core skills needed for each role. Each learning path is currently available in English, French, Spanish, and German.

LinkedIn Learning’s library for each learning path also includes collaborative courses, all taught by industry-expert instructors, allowing individuals to move through content and demonstrate their learning with a certificate of completion. Covering a broad range of skills from entry-level digital literacy to advanced product-based skills for technology roles, these role-based learning paths provide numerous opportunities for people along a learning continuum to reskill and upskill. We believe these are the types of resources that can place in-demand roles within reach of millions of job seekers.

In addition to these LinkedIn Learning paths, we are offering through Microsoft Learn free and in-depth technical learning content that also supports these roles. For more technical roles, job seekers can go deeper on specific role-based Microsoft technologies with Microsoft Learn modules, gaining the most in-demand skills on widely used technologies.

It will also enable job seekers pursuing developer roles to access the GitHub Learning Lab to practice their skills. GitHub Learning Lab is a bot-based learning tool that uses repositories to teach technology, coding, Git, and GitHub via real-life, demo-based modules. This means that as job seekers engage in learning paths, they will have the opportunity to practice newly acquired skills by completing realistic projects in a personalised GitHub repository.

To provide people with easier access to the soft skills needed to pursue a new job, Microsoft offers free access to four horizontal LinkedIn Learning paths. These are:

Finally, we are committed to developing and making available new courses and content that will focus on the skills needed to develop, deploy, and responsibly use technology. We recognize that issues such as privacy, security, digital safety, and the responsible application of artificial intelligence will continue to become even more important in the months and years ahead. We are committed to leading on these issues, not only for our technologies but in assisting others to master needed skills as well.

  • Connecting skills to opportunities through industry-recognized certifications and powerful job seeker tools

Today’s initiative also aims to help job seekers demonstrate their skills to potential employers. This part of our initiative has multiple parts.

First, we will offer low-cost access to industry-recognized Microsoft Certifications based on exams that demonstrate proficiency in Microsoft technologies. We are making exams for these Microsoft Certifications available at a significantly discounted fee of $15 available to those who self-attest that their employment has been impacted by COVID-19. This represents a large discount on the price of exams that typically cost more than $100. We are committed to supporting the integrity of certifications by enabling proctoring safely in an online setting that is accessible from anywhere. The $15 fee will be paid to and will enable third parties to scale to meet the potential surge in examination resources and will support the integrity of the certification by enabling proctoring via a safe, online setting that is accessible from anywhere. We will also work with governments, non-profits, foundations, and other private sector partners if they wish to absorb this third-party cost.

Participants will have the ability to schedule an exam from September to the end of the year, and exam takers will have until March 31, 2021, to complete the exam. This will provide access to the exams that provide five fundamentals certifications and eight role-based certifications. These will include:

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Power Platform App Maker Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Teams Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Developer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate

These exams will be available initially in whole or in part in seven languages – English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese (simplified), and Korean.

We have found that these certifications are a powerful asset for job seekers and those looking to advance in an existing role. For example, in Global Knowledge’s 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report, more than half of IT decision-makers surveyed believe the main benefit of certified individuals is their ability to close organizational skills gaps seen in an everchanging technology environment. It also showed certifications helped make hiring easier, helping job seekers stand out. Among other things, these certifications, as well as completion of a learning path on LinkedIn Learning, can be added to an individual’s LinkedIn profile.

We are also making available tools to help individuals identify and pursue potential jobs. This includes a recently developed job interview preparation-feature, powered by MSFT-AI, to prepare and practice for job interviews. It also includes a new feature we are announcing today called #OpenToWork, which enables job seekers to surface to employers the roles for which they would like to be considered. Through a simple LinkedIn profile photo frame, #OpenToWork enables job seekers to let employers and the LinkedIn network know they are actively seeking a new opportunity, indicate the type of job they are looking for, express their support needs, and get help from the LinkedIn community to find new opportunities.

We believe the strength of these resources is their comprehensive nature. To help people find and navigate all of our offerings, we have made all of these resources accessible from a single location: A job seeker or anyone looking to develop these in-demand skills can start here and will be guided through the learning paths based on the roles in which they are interested.

Also, Microsoft and LinkedIn will continue to provide on-ramps for people from non-traditional backgrounds to successfully transition from learning skills to landing a job. This will include the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy, or MSSA, which provides transitioning U.S. service members and veterans with technology skills. It also includes Leap, which Microsoft launched in 2015 to recruit, develop, upskill non-traditional talent, and create a connection to employability in the tech industry. And it includes REACH, which is a multi-year engineering apprenticeship program at LinkedIn.

Supporting these offerings with cash grants to non-profits

While all these tools, training, and certifications will be available online to millions of people in multiple languages, we recognize the need to supplement them with additional services and support. That is why we will provide $20 million in financial grants, plus technical support, to non-profit organizations around the world.

In part, this will enable non-profits to translate these resources into additional languages and to localize and tailor the learning content. These groups will also provide and support teachers and facilitators to help learners complete learning pathways and certification, and provide connections to wrap-around supports, coaching, and mentoring. We expect these grants will enable the non-profits to reach 5 million unemployed workers, with a focus on, particularly vulnerable groups. This includes people with disabilities, people from low-income communities, and people from diverse backgrounds that are underrepresented in tech, including women and underrepresented minorities.

We are launching this initiative globally with several highly regarded non-profit partners, including:

  • Trust for the Americas. Through a longstanding partnership, Microsoft and the Trust for the Americas have launched 200 centres across 19 countries in Latin America.
  • Fondazione Mundo Digitale. Committed to creating a more inclusive learning society with fundamental values of education and innovation in Italy, Fondazione Mondo Digitale has partnered with Microsoft to provide a wide range of much needed digital skills pieces of training with a mission of targeting categories of the population at greatest risk of being excluded.
  • NASSCOM Foundation. Microsoft India has partnered with NASSCOM Foundation and the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to directly train 2,000 young women and trainers at the Industrial Training Institutes on skills leading to Microsoft Certification.
  • Tech4Dev. Established in 2016 to empower African communities, Microsoft has partnered with Tech4Dev to inspire, advocate and train people across Nigeria on basic digital skills, programming skills, and essential skills needed for the future of work.
  • NPower. With a mission to launch underserved young adults from across Canada into meaningful and sustainable digital careers, Microsoft has partnered with NPower Canada in support of their core Workforce Development program which provides participants with no-cost ICT skills training, industry certification, job placement and career services.
  • National Urban League. Since its founding in 1910, the National Urban League has served African Americans and the long-term unemployed. Microsoft will partner with NUL on initiatives including the Urban Tech Jobs Program to build on this history and mission to connect the long-term unemployed to good-paying jobs in Information Technology.
  • Skilful. Dedicated to enabling all Americans – particularly those without a bachelor’s degree – to secure good jobs in a changing economy, Skilful has partnered with Microsoft to develop skills-based training and employment practices in collaboration with state governments, local employers, educators, workforce development organizations, and others.

Although this is a global initiative, it is important to take special steps to make digital skills more accessible to communities of colour in the United States. We are focusing on community-based non-profits, which are local organizations created to address the unique needs of the people living in a community. They are often the most trusted and effective at driving positive impact. However, data has shown that there are disparities in the funding provided to community-based non-profits serving in communities of colour and led by people of colour.

This needs to change. Therefore, as a part of this skills initiative, Microsoft will dedicate support to community-based non-profit organizations working to increase skill development and economic opportunities for communities of colour, especially Black and African American communities. We will provide $5 million in cash grants to community-based non-profit organizations that are led by and serve communities of colour in the United States. This summer, we will publish additional information on this opportunity and will select organizations for this funding by the fall of this year. We recognize that this is but a small part of the long-overdue investment needed to address historical racial inequities in our society. We look forward to partnering with communities and other like-minded individuals and organizations to use our voice and resources to advocate for change to support communities of colour.

Using our voice on public policy issues

We are committed to sharing data and what we learn from this initiative with governments around the world. Besides, we will advocate for public policy innovations that we believe can help accelerate essential skills needs and opportunities. We plan to address three priorities:

  • Employer incentives: We believe the current economic crisis provides an important moment for governments to do what has long been needed, by helping to reverse the two-decade decline and stagnation in employer-sponsored learning opportunities for employees. Governments can play a vital role by providing tax incentives for employers –, especially small businesses – in new stimulus spending measures. Governments should also consider doing more to support broader work-based training programs and to support transitional employment, which would provide subsidies for time-limited, wage-paid work experiences.

One creative example comes from Canada, where workers who risk displacement in an economic downturn are encouraged to develop individual training plans ranging from upgrading skills in current jobs to preparing for promotions and even training for jobs outside the company. This “Work-Sharing (WS)” program helps employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity beyond the control of an employer. It provides income support to employees eligible for employment insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers. WS is a three-party agreement involving employers, employees, and Service Canada. Employees must agree to a reduced work schedule and to share the available work for a specified time. The impacted employees are compensated with salary for participation in skills enhancement training, whether on-the-job or at off-site courses, during the days/hours missed because of participation in the WS program.

  • Increased skills funding for individuals: At a time when governments are investing in stimulus funding, it is important to consider investing in the future of citizens by enabling people to acquire the skills needed for their future and the economy’s recovery. This should provide individuals with access to funding for additional relevant skills training (including online tools and services) throughout their lives, as well as more funding to existing workforce programs focusing on technology and skills.

Good examples are plentiful. They include work in New Zealand, where the government has invested approximately $1 billion to make vocational training courses free for all ages over the next two years. In the United States, the Pledge to America’s Workers American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, established by the White House, is developing proposals focused on investments in learning pathways, skills-based hiring, and the modernization of education and training to accelerate reskilling and facilitate innovation in workforce development. Other examples include programs in countries such as Singapore and France to create Lifelong Learning Accounts or similar mechanisms that would allow individual employees, employers and, in some models, the public sector, to invest in training for individuals.

COVID-related stimulus spending creates an important opportunity to pursue these opportunities further. As the European Commission has recently recognized, a “Next Generation EU” recovery package should address the importance of digital skills. To improve and adapt skills, knowledge and competences, the commission will come forward with a Skills Agenda for Europe and an updated Digital Education Action Plan.

  • Data and innovation: Finally, we believe it will become increasingly important to advance new data systems that leverage private sector tools to help workers understand available training and in-demand career paths and help policymakers understand evolving post-COVID labour market shifts. A key step is to create interoperable learning records that allow individuals to share their learning records more easily with employers. A similar measure promotes data integration to help job seekers and employers identify in-demand skills and growth areas. All of this is enhanced when governments open their own data sets for public use. A good example of this is the European Commission’s “New Skills Agenda for Europe,” which offers people tools to present their skills and obtain real-time information on skills needs and trends. We are committed to public-private partnerships in supporting these efforts.

Coming next: A new learning app in Microsoft Teams

The programs we are launching today are focused on helping job seekers. We have a broader vision for skills. We believe we need a connected “system of learning.” Central to this vision is a recognition that employers have a vital role to play in helping their employees to skill and re-skill. We know that employers need additional tools and resources to help here. As we have talked with our customers, we have heard some key themes:

  • Employers recognize that they need to train and retrain employees to do current and new jobs well, but more than two-thirds of Learning & Development leaders state that measuring the impact of learning remains one of their biggest challenges.
  • Employee engagement in learning is a challenge. Many employees report not having enough time or incentive to learn at work. There is a low cultural emphasis placed on learning, with research showing that only one-third of employees have leadership teams encouraging them to learn.
  • The learning experience for too many employees is highly fragmented. Many organizations piece together courses and content across a variety of sources, making it hard and time-consuming for employees to easily discover relevant content when and where they need it.

Just as companies today have a system of engagement for customers with CRM technology and a system of record with ERP, they will need a system of learning. This will need to provide a continuous feedback loop between the work, skills and learning required to succeed at the task at hand, as well as the credentials to accelerate career advancement.

To support this, we are developing and will preview a new learning app in Microsoft Teams later this year, to bring learning into the natural flow of work. People are already using Microsoft Teams for meetings, chat, calling, collaboration, and business processes, and we are planning to extend that to include learning. The Teams learning app will allow employers to integrate world-class content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, a customer’s content, and other content providers all in one place, ranging from instructor-led training to shorter, micro-learning content. The app will empower managers to assign and track learning progress and enable employees to have conversations around the content while also earning certifications and recognition for their new skills. Whether a new employee is onboarding, a manager is looking to sharpen a team’s skills, or a first-line worker is in the field needing immediate training, this new app will create a seamless experience for employees to learn in the flow of work.

Looking forward: A foundation for the skills and jobs of the future

As this detailed description makes clear, we are launching today the most comprehensive approach we have ever undertaken to meet the digital skilling needs of individuals and employers alike. We believe we can provide meaningful help to more than 25 million people globally in the coming months.

But in many ways, our ambitions are larger than this. For every part of Microsoft, including LinkedIn and GitHub, this marks a new beginning that will build on everything we have today and a new wave of technology innovation to come. We believe we can combine the best in technology with stronger partnerships with governments and non-profits. Together we can better serve people, filling jobs and creating opportunities for individuals around the world. We should all aspire to turn a year that had a bleak beginning into a decade that has a bright finish. We bring long-term determination and a commitment to do our part”.

For more information about this initiative, Visit Microsoft blog Webpage

Source: Microsoft blog


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