Microsoft to upskill 25m job-seekers with digital skills

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 01 Jul 2020
Microsoft president Brad Smith.
Microsoft president Brad Smith.

Microsoft has launched a global skills development initiative, aimed at helping to create employment opportunities by training 25 million people in digital skills by the end of 2020.

The announcement, made during a virtual conference last night, hosted by Microsoft president Brad Smith, comes in the wake of the global economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left scores of people unemployed.

In its global outlook, the United Nations International Labour Organisation predicts workers across the globe could suffer “massive damage” to their livelihoods, with COVID-19 expected to claim the equivalent of 305 million full-time jobs.

In SA, Stats SA revealed last week that unemployment rose to 30.1% in the first quarter of 2020. It points out that in the quarter, employment decreased by 38 000 to 16.4 million.

Microsoft believes expanded access to digital skills is an important step in accelerating economic recovery and maximising employment opportunities for the people hardest hit by job losses, those with lower incomes, women, and underrepresented minorities.

To ensure the initiative is a data-driven, comprehensive project that reaches people in all corners of the globe, Microsoft collaborated with its subsidiary LinkedIn and e-learning platform GitHub Learning Lab to use their data analytics technology and e-learning resources.

Addressing media across the globe via Microsoft’s Webcast platform, Smith explained the collaboration seeks to provide free access to content in LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and the GitHub Learning Lab, and combines those with Microsoft certifications and LinkedIn job-seeking tools.

“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 is programmes to provide easier access to digital skills.

“Our vision for skills extends beyond these immediate steps for job-seekers; it is developing a connected ‘system of learning’ that helps empower everyone to pursue lifelong learning.”

The learning resources can all be accessed at a central location on, and will be broadly available online across countries in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish. The courses offered include software development,IT administration,IT support/helpdesk, data analytics and graphic design.

This initiative, noted Smith, will combine existing Microsoft and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub and Microsoft in three core 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.
  • Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.

Microsoft says it will use its voice to advocate for public policy innovations that will advance skilling opportunities needed in the changed economy.

“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 Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“Sustained progress will require a renewed partnership between stakeholders across the public, private and non-profit sectors, and we’re committed to supporting this.”

The tech giant has also developed a new learning app available in Microsoft Teams to help employers to upskill new and existing employees.

“Creating opportunity for every member of the global workforce drives everything we do at LinkedIn,” said LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky.

“As a part of the Microsoft ecosystem, we have the unique ability to help job-seekers around the world − especially those who have been disproportionately disadvantaged during the COVID-19 crisis − gain the skills and find the jobs they deserve. We’re proud to be bringing the right data about what the jobs and skills of the future will be, to create the right learning paths and help 25 million job-seekers find their next opportunities.”

In addition, Microsoft says it is backing the skills initiative by providing $20 million in cash grants to help non-profit organisations worldwide assist the people who need it most.