Microsoft Boosts Its Upskilling Ante with New Intitiative
When Microsoft announced its global skills initiative in June 2020, I was interested. When I saw they planned to help 25 million people skill up, I was stunned. Just over a year later, MS has announced a follow-on effort aimed at small and medium-sized businesses.
The blog post announcing this new program, dated July 21, 2021, is titled "Our commitment to helping small to medium-size businesses build skills for success." Among other thing — more on those soon — it lays out some interesting info:
1) Already, the Global Skills initiative "has helped more than 30 million individuals worldwide learn new digital skills." Note: Of the world's 235 countries, 189 of them have populations of 30 million or fewer.
2) The new initiative comes from every part of Microsoft, and combines new and existing resources from Microsoft, GitHub, and LinkedIn. Its three primary focuses are (1) use of data to identify in-demand jobs and their associated skill sets; (2) free access to learning paths and supporting content to help people skill up to fill those jobs; and (3) low cost certifications plus free job search tools to put the people who build the skills into such positions. Identification-qualification-placement is my rubric for what they're doing.
3) To make sure the rubric actually provokes action, Microsoft is providing $20 million in grants to help global nonprofits work with individuals most in need of help and support. Of that total, $5 million is to be "provided in cash grants to community-based nonprofit organizations that are led by and serve communities of color in the United States." Good!
4) Microsoft is developing a new app within Teams, so that employers can use it to upskill new and already-hired employees. The app will deliver high-quality content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party training providers, and (where applicable) the company's own learning materials and content.
The whole idea is to make it easy, simple, and readily available for employees to learn as part of their everyday work routines, and through off-hours access to Teams.
5) Microsoft plans to "make stronger data and analytics available to governments around the world so they can better assess local economic needs." It will also use its presence and power in the marketplace to "advocate for public policy innovations that we believe will advance the skilling opportunities people will need in the changed economy."
A Modern Socially-Conscious Learning Manifesto
Then things get really interesting. Microsoft lays out its "thinking and plans" in making this upskilling initiative available. They start by citing the massive labor market changes, including job losses and layoffs, that the pandemic caused. They cite total global unemployment of "a quarter of a billion people."
The 30 million they've already helped is a huge number, but the difference with respect to that total is almost a full order of (decimal) magnitude. So indeed, there's still a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Their unemployment analysis is informative and compelling, but also ultimately a wake-up call for governments and employers, as well as those affected thereby.
Next they dig into a change in labor markets and jobs that they call the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They estimate that nearly 150 million new technology-oriented jobs could be absorbed into the global workforce over the next five years.
Software development represents the biggest share of this estimate, but big numbers also pop up for cloud and data roles; data analysis and AI/ML; cybersecurity; and privacy and trust jobs. Here's a nice slide:
They also exhort employers to reverse recent trends and invest more in training and upskilling new and current employees as a good way to help plug the emerging (and widening) skills gap, especially for qualified technical professionals in IT fields.
The Six Key Elements of the Manifesto
Here they are in abbreviated form (see the original for details), quoted verbatim (square brackets enclose my comments, parentheses abridge MS language):
Use data and technology to help people develop new skills.
Focus on a broad set of skills. (Including soft skills and basic business/workplace skills)
Ask employers to do more. (Make new training commitments to employees)
Lean on partners. (Work with nonprofits and governments to extend outreach)
Pull together every part of our company. (Microsoft, LinkedIn, and GitHub, including Microsoft Philanthropies and LinkedIn's CSR program)
Use our voice to change policy. (Share data and knowledge, and advocate for public policy innovations to support reskilling)
This is great stuff. It's well worth reading yourself, and sharing with others. This kind of thing can make a real difference, and could mean major life improvements for those who benefit from what it brings to them.
I applaud this effort, and will continue to report on its progress and details. To that end, see the 10 different "Become a [Job Role]" links at the end of the story. Share them with those who have such interests and who might benefit from related upskilling. Let's do this!