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August 4, 2020

Microsoft Effort Aims to Reskill 25 Million People

25 million. There’s a number to ponder. And it’s the number of people to which Microsoft hopes to reach out to help the global workforce respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Microsoft President Brad Smith addressed this in an Official Microsoft Blog post entitled Microsoft launches initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a COVID-19 economy. What he has to say is of such interest and import that I’ll quote several chunks from that post verbatim. Here’s the first salvo:

As societies reopen, it’s apparent that the economy in July will not be what it was in January. 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. And one of the keys to a genuinely inclusive recovery are programs to provide easier access to digital skills for people hardest hit by job losses, including those with lower incomes, women, and underrepresented minorities.

To help address this need, today Microsoft is launching a global skills initiative aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year. This initiative will bring together every part of our company, combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft.  It will be grounded in three areas of activity:

(1) The use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them;

(2) Free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require;

(3) Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.

That’s a pretty ambitious and worthwhile goal. To put money where Brad’s mouth just was, the blog post also asserts that MS will make $20 million in cash grants to nonprofit organizations, so they can “assist the people who need it most.” Of that $20M, “$5 million … will be provided in cash grants to community-based nonprofit organizations that are led by and serve communities of color in the United States.” Very interesting!

A Familiar Name Pops Up: Dona Sarkar

If I have interpreted the recent posts of former Windows Insider Program Team Lead Dona Sarkar (@donasarkar) correctly, I believe she may be heading up this effort. Recently she has announced that former Insider coordinator and facilitator extraordinare Joe Camp (@JoeCamp13) and UN Peace Ambassador and tech skilling advocate Gomo Mohapi (@GomoMohapi) are also on this team. This should make for some interesting activity and a no-doubt arresting stream of social media items as the effort begins to gain additional momentum.

What’s on the Current Menu?

MS is basing its offerings on a deep and thorough analysis of the job market, and is seeking to provide career reskilling where those who pursue its offerings are mostly likely to be able to reap the desired benefit of finding work (and developing a career path, beyond the first job). So far MS has identified ten jobs “most widely in demand” and created learning paths for them through LinkedIn Learning. Says Smith “These 10 jobs were identified as having the greatest number of job openings, have had steady growth over the past four years, pay a livable wage, and require skills that can be learned online.” Here’s the list, with links to carry interested readers further along the information gathering path:

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

But wait: there’s more. MS Is also offering soft skills training in what it calls “horizontal LinkedIn Learning paths.” These include the following elements:

1: Job seeker – Finding a Job During Challenging Economic Times
2: Critical soft skills – Master In-Demand Professional Soft Skills
3: Digital transformation – Digital Transformation in Practice: Virtual Collaboration Tools
4: Allyship and inclusive conversations – Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging for All

There’s a lot of great stuff to chew on here. I’m tempted to dig into the soft skills stuff myself because I’m curious as to what content they’re delivering, how they’re delivering it, and what kind of testing or feedback they’re soliciting to make sure that students understand and can benefit from that material.

Great stuff! Check it out, and recommend it to friends, family, or those you know who can themselves benefit from what’s on offer, or spread the word further.


Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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