British Council and Microsoft partner to improve employment prospects of 400,000 young Indians

  • Co-developed ‘English Skills for Youth’ program aims to enhance employability skills of young people between 18-25 years of age across more than 17 Indian states
  • Partnership to promote inclusivity, providing opportunities for socio-economically underserved youth, with special focus on English language skills for employability of women (up to 75% of the 400,000)
a woman and two men at a corporate event posing for a picture
Left to right: Alison Barrett MBE, Director India, British Council; Lord (Tariq) Ahmad, Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, UN at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the UK Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict; and Navtez Bal, executive director, Public Sector, Microsoft India, at the MoU signing.

New Delhi, May 29, 2023: British Council, the UK’s international organization for educational opportunities and cultural exchange, and Microsoft India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a co-developed three-year partnership program, ‘English Skills for Youth’. The program aims to enhance the life opportunities of young people, aged 18-25, particularly women, in socio-economically marginalized communities across India.

The primary objective of the ‘English Skills for Youth’ project is to enhance employability skills for the youth. Microsoft and British Council have co-developed this program to impart one of the most in-demand skills – English language – to the students. The beneficiaries will also be equipped with essential underpinning skills, including collaboration, critical thinking, soft skills, and leadership abilities, offering a holistic development plan for the youth. These skills are crucial for improving employment prospects and facilitating further education opportunities. The program will have a deliberate intake of 75% women learners, in an attempt to bridge the gender divide in the workplace.

The ‘English Skills for Youth’ solution will be integrated into rural engineering colleges linked to Microsoft’s existing NGO/partner skilling projects for the underserved. By adopting this innovative approach, the project seeks to benefit 60,000 youth and 600 teachers during the initial three-year pilot phase, with a long-term goal of reaching 400,000 young people engaged in Microsoft Philanthropies funded projects. The program will focus on building English communication skills and soft skills to equip students to present themselves confidently at job interviews and/or sustain their jobs in companies with a global customer base.

The project has been designed to cover three key aspects:

  • Capacity building of English faculty and placement officers in state engineering colleges across India
  • Facilitating the development of English skills for students, particularly women, adopting a community of practice approach through student club meetings
  • Establishing an interface with industry through joint thought leadership forums organized by Microsoft and the British Council, focusing on multilingualism in the workplace

Alison Barrett MBE, Director India, British Council, said, “Enabling young people, particularly women, with life and employment opportunities is at the core of all our work in culture, education and English so we are delighted to announce the ‘English Skills for Youth’ program with Microsoft India. This partnership model brings together expertise in developing the range of skills such as working collaboratively, critical thinking, English communication and soft skills, and leadership skills that are crucial for the age group of 18-25 years to improve their employability opportunities. We are very excited about the long-term positive impact that will be delivered at scale through the expansive network of Microsoft Philanthropies, preparing young women and students to take charge of their learning and livelihoods.”

Present at the signing, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad, Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, UN at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the UK Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, said, “The UK-India relationship has flourished over many decades, expanding once again through our commitments in the 2030 Roadmap for India-UK’s future relations.”

“India and the UK are united in valuing the importance of a good education, which is why we are launching a new ‘English Skills for Youth’ program. We aim to equip India’s younger generation with the right skills to increase their focused chances of employment and prosperity – of young women and girls in particular.”

“I firmly believe that all young people, regardless of their background, should be able to access opportunities for a better future – and I commend the British Council and Microsoft India for their collaboration on this important initiative.”

Navtez Bal, executive director, Public Sector, Microsoft India, said, “Bridging the skills gap is foundational to building towards inclusive economic and societal progress in today’s digital economy. Beyond imparting digital skills, it is critical to provide holistic training content including soft skills to jobseekers of tomorrow. We are excited to partner with British Council and have deep impact on the country’s youth with in-demand skills for future-ready jobs.”

This unique partnership model enables the British Council and Microsoft to work at scale, leveraging existing and large delivery platforms of Microsoft Philanthropies. It aligns with the British Council’s Language and Empowerment and Education ‘Skills for young people and leaders’ program outcomes, further reinforcing its commitment to fostering language proficiency and empowering the next generation.

About the British Council:

The British Council is the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We build connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. Last year we reached over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall including online, and through broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.

About Microsoft India:

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Microsoft set up its India operations in 1990. Today, Microsoft entities in India have over 20,000 employees, engaged in sales and marketing, research, development, and customer services and support, across 11 Indian cities – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, New Delhi, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Noida, and Pune. Microsoft offers its global cloud services from local data centers to accelerate digital transformation across Indian startups, businesses, and government organizations.

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