By Ahmed Mazhari, President, Microsoft Asia
As Japan goes through a massive digital transformation, companies recognise that there is an opportunity to address the digital skills shortage. To empower their ongoing evolution, we’ve launched a new, targeted skilling partnership to help ensure a successful and sustainable digital future.
In the past, Japanese organisations weren’t as fast as their overseas peers when it came to digitalisation, and that has affected economic competitiveness. In 2021, Japan ranked 27th in the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking, behind counterparts in Asia including China, South Korea, and Malaysia.
The lag has also taken a toll in other ways. For example, former Health Minister Katsunobu Kato cited the delay in Japan’s digital transformation as the biggest challenge in its response to COVID-19.
But now, that’s changing as Japan’s public and private sectors alike accelerate their digital transformation, drawing on cloud solutions to help them increase time to market, enable innovation, and scale more efficiently. Last year, for example, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Tokyo Stock Exchange named 28 ‘DX brands’ or companies that are transforming their business models through digitalisation and the adoption of technologies including cloud services to drive new growth.
In the public sector, the creation of a new digital agency to lead the development of digital public service delivery is also generating a lot of enthusiasm.
However, while our latest Work Trend Index Report found that technology can empower frontline workers and help reduce workplace stress, employees aren’t making the most of new digital tools due to a lack of training.
As momentum for digital transformation grows, organisations are asking urgent questions about the support they will need to help them upskill their workforces and modernise their ways of working.
Helping employees adapt to a changing workplace
As research from McKinsey indicates, Japan’s digital transformation will require businesses to bring talent and technology back into the core of their operations, and that means developing new skills in-house.
A proactive approach to skilling particularly matters to Japan because of its ageing workforce. By 2030, it is expected to have a shortage of 6.4 million workers and 450,000 IT professionals.
Getting more women into the workforce is also critical. While the number of female workers has been growing—accounting for a record 44.4 percent of the workforce in 2019—the vast majority work part-time or on a temporary basis.
Japan has adopted work reforms to help encourage more women into full-time work and to improve employment conditions for all, including ensuring a better work-life balance.
Together with the pandemic, which has accelerated an adoption of remote work across industries, these reforms are transforming Japan’s traditional work culture.
In turn, companies are now trying to figure out how best to adapt their workplaces to all these changes and help employees build new and strengthen existing skills.
Revitalising Japan through new ways of working and skilling
At Microsoft, we’re making it a top priority to support Japan’s adoption of new work styles and efforts to upskill its workforce.
First, we’re drawing on our deep capabilities in helping organisations adapt their workplaces to change and improve their work environments. Through cloud services, we’re making sure companies are prepared to offer workers more flexibility, such as through a hybrid or remote work setup.
We have been helping people acquire digital skills as part of our Global Skills Initiative, and are upskilling employees in our customer and partner organisations through Microsoft Learn and other programs.
In Japan itself, we’re investing in strategic areas and strengthening our skilling efforts. We also have partnerships to help individuals gain new digital skills and encourage more women to rejoin the workforce.
Stepping up efforts to close the skills gap
Now, we’re intensifying all these efforts.
Together with Modis, a subsidiary of HR solutions leader The Adecco Group, we have launched a skilling collaboration to further develop the skills of 200,000 Japanese IT professionals by 2025. This collaboration will be instrumental in supporting the growth of digital human resources and driving Japan’s digital transformation and inclusive economic and social progress.
In particular, we are aiming to support 100,000 non-IT professionals and job seekers to receive training that will aid their career development or employment in the tech sector.
Another 100,000 IT professionals will gain industry-leading cloud technology skills.
We will also support upskilling and reskilling to expand the base of developers across industries and governments. This way, employees will have the ability to solve IT issues and develop new digital experiences and apps in-house.
To close the country’s skills gap, we will provide employment, job change, and learning assistance to the unemployed and job seekers. Modis and The Adecco Group will contribute additional human capital and employment support, while Microsoft will offer learning opportunities via Microsoft Base and Microsoft Learn.
Helping to build a sustainable digital future
We see our skilling initiative as a catalyst to help prepare Japan for the future of work and lay the groundwork for a sustainable digital future.
As Katsura Ito, Chief Learning Officer at Microsoft Japan, points out, there’s an urgent need to plug the country’s digital skills gap through skilling and reskilling.
“Continuous learning is part of Microsoft’s culture, and we are committed to having employees, enterprise customers, and the community gain equal access to digital training and skilling,” she says.
“We hope this collaboration with Modis will enable both IT and non-IT professionals to gain the right skills and ultimately help advance digital transformation and the economy in Japan.”
We look forward to this new partnership empowering people and organisations across Japan.