2020 may be one of the most challenging years we have encountered. Small and medium-sized enterprises and some of the largest companies have experienced unprecedented changes in the market and their business. From the restricted movement of people and goods or even disrupted supply chains to telecommuting and cybersecurity threats resulting from the pandemic changes, we are all forced to adjust to a new normal (or post-normal) and become more innovative than ever before.
From the beginning of the year, it has become evident that the companies which introduced new technology-based business innovation earlier have been less affected by the crisis, thus motivating others to innovate and adjust quickly. The new business circumstances around the world have created a range of new jobs that require digital skills. Today, they are necessary to a larger or smaller extent for most employees and represent a job opportunity for vulnerable groups – those with lower incomes, women, and underrepresented minorities, namely all those previously hit the most by job and basic income loss. But, this is not only about survival. It is also for further progress because if we stay in the past, looking for excuses in the new circumstances, and do not strive towards innovation, there will be no progress at all.
According to the company’s calculations, global unemployment in 2020 may reach up to a quarter of a billion people. The estimate does not refer to underdeveloped and developing countries, but also some of the wealthiest ones and those with the most stable economies. In the United States alone, the Congressional Budget Office estimates a 12.3 percent increase (from 3.5% to 15.8%) in the unemployment rate, equating to more than 21 million newly out-of-work people. In countries with weaker economies, the situation may provoke even more concerns.
To provide people worldwide who will be part of these infamous statistics with an opportunity to overcome challenges in turbulent times, as well as to empower the IT community and educate new innovators, in June 2020, Microsoft created and launched a global initiative aimed at additionally educating people in the area of digital skills. The aim of the initiative is to have 25 million people worldwide master new skills by the end of the year, which will help them and the economies of the countries where they live and work. This initiative includes engagement of the entire Microsoft, namely all its parts. It also combines the existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft. It refers to three areas of activity:
- 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 has pledged to advocate for public policy changes that will help create new skilling opportunities in the modern economy. Microsoft also announced it is creating a new learning app in Microsoft Teams designed to help employers skill and upskill new and current employees as people return to work, and as the economy adds jobs. The new app will bring together learning content from a variety of sources into a single place. Microsoft’s goal is to use Teams to host a continuous feedback loop between work, skills, and learning. This learning app will allow employers to integrate content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, a customer’s content base, and other providers in a single place. Managers can assign and track learning progress, and it will help employees earn certifications. The app will be available in preview and become generally available later this calendar year.
Digitalization is not just a time-limited trend; it is a process that will continue in the future as well. Gaining digital skills is not restricted either, because technology changes daily, which means that the skills acquired today will keep being upgraded through work on further innovation and that they improve and help global economic recovery and facilitate further growth. And there is no growth without innovation.