Microsoft in collaboration with LinkedIn and Github has unveiled a multi-billion initiative to equip people with digital skills needed in a COVID-19 economy.

While announcing the initiative, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith stressed the urgency of equipping workers with skills for the jobs of the future at this particular time when more than 90 percent of global economies are impacted by coronavirus pandemic. 

Learners will be awarded certifications at a discounted fee of $15. All the learning resources will be available at opportunity.linkedin.com. According to Microsoft, the exams cost more than $100 million. 

As part of this initiative, Microsoft is also extending cash grants totaling $20 million to non-profits to help uplift marginalized communities. Satya Nadella in a statement stated,

“Our vision is a connected system of learning’ that helps empower everyone to pursue lifelong learning. That is why we are also announcing today that Microsoft is developing a new learning app in Microsoft Teams to help employers upskill new and existing employees. This will bring together best in class content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party training providers, and a company’s own learning content and make it all available in a place where employees can easily learn in the flow of their work”.

According to Microsoft calculations, global unemployment in 2020 may reach a 250 million people. This will be the trend in many other economies. “In the United States alone, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the country may witness a 12.3 point increase (from 3.5% to 15.8%) in the unemployment rate, equating to more than 21 million newly out-of-work people”.

A recent study by McKinsey showed European jobs at risk from COVID-19 overlap with jobs vulnerable to automation. Three occupational groups account for about half of all jobs at risk in Europe: customer service and sales, food services, and building occupations. The jobs most at risk from pandemic job losses overlap to some extent with those most vulnerable to displacement through automation. Around 24 million jobs, almost 50 percent of the number of jobs displaced through automation, are at risk of displacement though both COVID-19 and automation.

jobs at risk of coronavirus and automation
McKinsey Report

The coronavirus has shed some light on what was already a widening skills gap globally. Raising the need to address the gap urgently if countries are to accelerate economic recovery. 

Microsoft has reported that two years’ worth of digital transformation has been concentrated between May and June 2020 with a major shift in demand for skills. In its statement, Microsoft stated,

“This longer-term disconnect between supply and demand for skills in the labor market appears to be driven by three primary long-term factors: (1) the rapid emergence of AI-powered technologies that are propelling a new era of automation; (2) the growing need for technological acumen to compete in a changing commercial landscape; and (3) the drop-off in employer-based training investments over the past two decades”.

In an effort to address these global challenges, other tech companies like Google and Apple have launched similar learning initiatives worldwide to equip people and businesses with digital tools necessary to grow their businesses.


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