Nearly a million people in the Middle East and Africa have embarked on a skilling journey with Microsoft

Woman in a white and red striped shirt sitting outside working at her laptop.

Four months ago, Microsoft with LinkedIn announced its commitment to helping 25 million people around the globe gain new digital skills before the end of March 2021. The aim of the initiative is to help those that had become unemployed and were economically impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to gain new and relevant skills for their next job.

Since the start of this initiative, over 10 million learners from 231 countries have embarked on a new skilling journey with Microsoft, LinkedIn and GitHub. In the Middle East and Africa (MEA) alone, close to 900 000 learners have engaged with one of the 10 learning paths.

A blue image with text saying “Microsoft, LinkedIn and GitHub have collectively reached 10 million learners in three months.”

When it came to deciding what these learning paths would be, Microsoft conducted extensive research in workforce trends and settled on 10 key jobs: software developer, sales representative, project manager, IT administrator, customer service specialist, digital marketing specialist, IT support, data analyst, financial analyst and graphic designer. These positions were found to have the greatest number of job openings globally, have had steady growth over the past four years, pay a livable wage, and require skills that can be learned online. Since the beginning of the initiative, the most popular learning paths have been software development, customer service and data analysis.

An image talking about the top three learning paths in Microsoft’s global skills initiative being software developer, customer service specialist and data analyst.

In addition to providing sought after digital skills, Microsoft with LinkedIn has given users free access to courses in soft skills. These include tips on how to find a job during challenging economic times, mastering in-demand professional skills, understanding digital transformation in practice, as well as a course in diversity, inclusion and belonging.

While digital training for in-demand jobs and employability skills have been a core focus of the initiative, this is not always enough to upskill the communities that need it most. Connectivity, digital literacy and creating the link between skills and landing the right job are some of the other hurdles many experience in the MEA region.

Local nonprofit organisations within MEA understand the needs and challenges of their communities, and so, in an effort to better supplement this global skills initiative, Microsoft partnered with these community organisations to provide additional funding and services.

Afrika Tikkun, one of these partner organisations, has a wealth of experience when it comes to working with young people from underprivileged South African communities with its skills development and work readiness programmes. The organisation supports unemployed South Africans to identify the best learning paths based on their existing skill set, aids in the preparation to complete the certification and helps bridge the gap between qualifying and the job market. Microsoft has pledged $150 000 to Afrika Tikkun to help further its efforts. With this grant, Afrika Tikkun aims to recruit 50 000 job hunters to take on one of the many learning paths.

To further the global skills initiative’s reach, various policy roundtables and discussions have been held with governments across the region including in Nigeria and South Africa to promote inclusive economic recovery through public-private partnerships, skills-based hiring and incentivising employers to train and retain staff.

Microsoft is also working with the Ministry of Labour in Israel and the National Digital Israel Project to encourage people who are at home to pick up one of the free courses available. In addition, a memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Ekiti State Government in Nigeria who will encourage engagement with these free-to-access digital training courses and cover the cost of 2 000 certifications.

The commitment of our current learners is inspiring, and in the coming months we hope to bring more of these skills opportunities to a greater number of people with the help of our partners and the region’s local governments.

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