It states that “those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect”.
As part of the agreement, the company will offer all veterans free training to help them upskill for a career in the technology sector. The move forms part of the firm’s Digital Skills Programme, which aims to teach digital skills to people across the UK to ensure the country remains one of the global leaders in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other next-generation technologies.
Microsoft will also offer a 10% discount on products for all military personnel.
Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, signed the Covenant at Microsoft’s UK headquarters, in Reading, with Mark Lancaster MP, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. Rose said: “This is an important moment for Microsoft and its staff in the UK. I am delighted that we are recognising the crucial work of members of the Armed Forces and helping them and their families.
“This also brings huge benefits to Microsoft, a proud employer of military reservists and veterans in the UK. The technical and leadership skills that those who serve their country bring to our business are incredibly valuable, and I am honoured to work alongside them.”
The Armed Forces Covenant is open to businesses, local authorities, charities and community organisations, and focuses on giving members of the armed forces community access to the same services and products as any other citizen. This support can include education, having a home, starting a career, access to healthcare, financial assistance and discounted services.
Among other measures, Microsoft has also pledged to:
- encourage military spouses to apply for roles at Microsoft by offering flexible working where possible
- support reservists by providing them with 10 days paid leave to undertake annual mandatory training
- support armed forces charitable organisations by matching funds collected on their behalf by employees and collecting on an annual basis for Royal British Legion Poppy Day
- promote the fact Microsoft is an armed forces friendly organisation by advertising this on its website, internally and while attending partner events
Lancaster, the MP for Milton Keynes North, served on a gap year commission in the Army between 1988 and 1990 and now serves in the Army Reserves as a Colonel, which has included operational tours in Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan. He welcomed Microsoft’s move to sign the Covenant.
“The fact that such a leading multinational company has signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant demonstrates the support businesses have for our military personnel,” he said.
“We are continuously building on our cyber capabilities to ensure we are countering ever intensifying threats. And it is companies like Microsoft that we look to support and develop our Reservists to ensure we remain at the cutting edge.”
Jeff Tremaine, Chief Technology Officer for UK Defence at Microsoft and an Army Reservist since 2009, said the signing was a “landmark moment”.
“In the 10 years I’ve been in the Reserves, Microsoft has been extremely supportive of me, but this Covenant formalises the relationship. It’s a statement that Microsoft endorses the Reserves and what they do,” he said.
“There is a two-way relationship here, and some of the values we have in the Army are similar to those Microsoft have, as well. Courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment – these are all part of Microsoft’s DNA and the Army’s, too.
“If the signing of this Covenant makes it easier for people to join not just the Army Reserves but the Royal Air Force, Navy and Royal Marines Reserves, too, then that’s a good thing.”
Microsoft’s UK military pledge follows similar initiatives at the company in the US, where it offers career training programmes, employment opportunities, discounts and community and citizenship activities. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), which provides transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills for today’s growing technology industry, has been rolled out to 14 locations across North America, capable of graduating 1,000 students every year. Around 90% of students graduate from the MSSA into roles such as Software Engineer, Sales Support and Service Engineer.
By the end of this month, the company will also have taken its YouthSpark initiative – which creates education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people – to five military bases in that country.