Microsoft announces the next steps in its global skills initiative

The company said it is extending free access to courses. Microsoft has also launched career-oriented services and a Viva Learning app for Teams.

Job skills concept

Image: iStock/t:Radachynskyi

Microsoft this week launched Career Connector, a service that will help place 50,000 job seekers skilled by Microsoft's nonprofit and learning partners in tech-enabled jobs in the Microsoft ecosystem in the next three years. Career Connector will have a specific focus on women and underrepresented minorities in technology, the company said.

Further, Microsoft said its global skills initiative, launched last summer to bring more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year, has reached more than 30 million people in 249 countries. The United States accounted for the single biggest number, with 8.1 million participants, according to Microsoft. The initiative merges existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub and Microsoft, the company said. 

Microsoft also announced it will also supplement LinkedIn's work with additional offerings for more advanced skills-based learning. The company is extending to the end of 2021 all the free courses and low-cost certifications offered in its global skilling initiative through Microsoft Learn and will also extend the low-cost certification offer beyond job seekers to students. 

"These align to 10 high-demand technology jobs," Microsoft said in a blog post. "We saw more than 3.5 million people use these offerings as part of our global skilling initiative, including our learning paths for cloud foundations, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and skills relating to our Azure, Microsoft 365, Power Platform and Microsoft Dynamics offerings."  

SEE: Here are the top tech skills you need to know for the job you want (TechRepublic)

To support higher education students and institutions with workforce readiness, Microsoft also introduced a new Teams for Education app powered by LinkedIn, called Career Coach. This feature aims to provide personalized guidance for higher-education students to discover their career path, grow real-world skills and build their network all in one place. Career Coach uses an AI-based skills identifier and LinkedIn integration that aligns a student's comprehensive profile with job market trends, the company said. It also helps higher-education institutions gain insights into student skills, career goals and job market trends.

Further, Microsoft said it believes its new Viva Learning app for Teams "will play an important role in fostering better skills-based training for employers and employees." Viva Learning will provide a central hub for learning where people can discover, share, recommend and learn from content libraries across an organization, according to the company. 

It will include content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, Microsoft 365 training sessions, third-party content providers, Learning Management Systems and an organization's own custom content, Microsoft said. Viva Learning will be available in public preview in April. 

Digital equity investments

Last summer, Microsoft said it made digital equity became a special focus of its global skills initiative. "We based this on a recognition that the biggest brunt of the COVID-19 downturn is being borne by those with lower educational attainment, people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, women, younger workers and individuals who have less formal education. We were especially persuaded by the insights offered by Black Lives Matter and created a special focus on Black and African Americans in the United States."

As part of the initiative, the company said Microsoft Philanthropies has invested $20 million in grants to nonprofits around the world to help people from underserved communities that are often excluded by the digital economy. This total includes $5 million in grants to 50 Black and African-American-led and -serving digital skilling and workforce development nonprofits in the United States. The company said it has also partnered with nonprofits around the world like Africa Tikkun to reach underserved learners.

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