Empowering A Sustainable Future for the Gig Economy

 |   Azizah Ali, Chief Marketing & Operations Officer, Microsoft Malaysia

There is no denying that the pandemic sent shockwaves across the world, causing uncertainties not only in global economies, but in our daily lives too. In fact, it has affected the global workforce and Malaysia, like many other countries, is not spared from this. Although unfortunate, not all is in dire straits. From an organization’s perspective, the economic uncertainty has encouraged us to adopt a more flexible approach to finding talent based on an on-demand approach but targeting highly specialized talent. Consequently, more and more companies realize the potential of the gig economy or more specifically, the vital role of on-demand workers.

Testament to this, in October 2021, the Malaysian government announced through the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025) that it aims to create an ecosystem that supports the development of the gig economy and encourage people to take full advantage of this opportunity. This is a further reflection of the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL) that the government had earlier announced in February 2021 to ensure that the people are equipped with future ready skills to thrive in our growing digital economy.

On the global front, Microsoft introduced an initiative aimed to empower digital upskilling by enabling free access to learning resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft. By working with likeminded partners to expand our outreach, we were able to help over 30 million people across the world. What’s more, those who successfully complete the program will be awarded a globally recognized certification testament to their digital competencies and more importantly, boosting their employability.

Echoing this commitment, we at Microsoft Malaysia then introduced our Bersama Malaysia initiative, where we pledged to skill an additional 1 million Malaysians by end of 2023 to help create equal opportunities for people and businesses in the digital era.

To do so, we built new partnerships with organizations from various sectors and also extended some of our existing partnerships, including with Biji-biji Initiative who we have been working with since 2018, well before the pandemic. Together, we launched the ‘Digital Skills and Gig Economy Employability Programme’, aimed at equipping Malaysian youths with future ready skills and seize opportunities in the gig economy. The first phase of this program successfully garnered over 600 applications and 15 partners across both private and public sectors.

A year later, we spoke to three of the participants and here’s what they have to say…

After completing the program in 2021, Idris Azim took his learnings a step further and is now an Analyst at a strategy advisory firm where he is making full use of the skills he gained for his dream job.

“I had longed for a good opportunity and platform to improve my analytical quantitative skills and have always been on the lookout for programs on statistical analysis of data. Fortunately, I signed up for the Digital Skills and Gig Economy Employability Programme and that’s really been a turning point for me. I landed my dream job thanks to the upskilling opportunities provided by the program and now have a career that I am truly passionate about.”

By pursuing her passion in social media, Zulykha Zainal who was previously a freelance Social Media Manager has now secured a full-time job as a Data Analyst.

“I recall to this day how the program has empowered me to constantly challenge myself and not be afraid to try new things. I have always had a thing for data and am passionate about graphic design. My new role is essentially the best of both worlds – combining design and creative directions to present data.”

Heng Lun Lee, who also completed the program, has now transitioned from a part-time role to a full-time role as a Community Support Associate.

“One learning that I stand by till now is to not come up with solutions when brainstorming for new ideas. My role requires me to champion the community’s needs. Instead of offering a one-size-fits-all solution, I now approach a problem by focusing on feedback received and carefully study what the community needs before I contribute ideas.”

In conversation with our partner, Rashvin Pal Singh, Group Chief Executive Officer of Biji-biji Initiative, he also shared:

“It’s encouraging to see how this program has attracted and benefited gig economy workers all over Malaysia, and we have only completed phase one! There is so much more in store and local gig economy workers can definitely look forward to other exciting activities we have coming their way very soon.”

Our collaboration with Biji-biji Initiative has been an eye-opening experience, as we got up close and personal with these talents from different backgrounds. There is certainly no lack of versatility and resilience when it comes to our nation’s talent. Whether they were originally doing freelance work or resorted to doing so because of the pandemic, they’ve shown an admirable spirit of resilience, weathering through the challenges brought forth by the pandemic.

In the near future, we hope to further extend our support for these talents. At this juncture, we are collaborating with Social Security Organisation (SOCSO) and Junior Achievement (JA) Malaysia to engage our partners and customers to be a part of this program. Ultimately, we hope to secure employment, internship, or practical training opportunities for successful participants.

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