Over two million people in the Middle East and Africa gained new digital skills

A woman is working on her laptop at her desk

Last June, Microsoft made a commitment to upskill 25 million people around the globe. At the end of March we announced that this goal has been exceeded with a total of over 30 million people who have embarked on a new skills journey.

The global skills initiative set out to support and build opportunities for those whose employment was affected by the global events of the last year. Since the launch, we’ve provided free training resources in select skills for the new digital workforce and will continue to do so until the end of the year. The learning content includes courses in 10 learning paths to address the skills needs of the most in-demand jobs, while also providing resources around soft skills, finding a job during challenging economic times, virtual collaboration, as well as diversity and inclusion.

Just in the Middle East and Africa alone, 2.1 million people participated in the initiative by taking advantage of these learning resources developed by Microsoft, LinkedIn and GitHub and picked up a new skill. Globally, the customer service specialist pathway was the most popular course, followed by project manager and then data analysis. Reaching these numbers, however, could not have been achieved without the help of partners like Appleseeds Academy in Israel and Afrika Tikkun in South Africa.

Reaching those who need it most

While these resources were made available at no cost online, we realised that there are still a number of communities that would need additional support to gain access. Through our partnerships with nonprofit organisations like Appleseeds Academy and Afrika Tikkun, we’ve been able to bring these learning materials to communities where online resources are not always readily available. Their expertise and knowledge has also helped to translate the content into multiple languages and tailor it for local contexts.

Both Appleseeds Academy and Afrika Tikkun not only provided the communities they serve with access to the various learning resources, but they also helped to build a bridge between training and employment.

Eliyahu Gorgov, 35, joins a long list of Appleseeds graduates who have completed their qualifications under the initiative. Eliyahu had been working as an IT help desk agent for six months before he was let go. He came across the IT Support / Help Desk learning path while completing another course at Appleseeds. With this new qualification under his belt, Eliyahu received career counselling on how to compile a CV and build a noteworthy LinkedIn profile. “All thanks to Microsoft and Appleseeds, I am once again employed and have a future.”

Tal Edri Moshe, 44, is another Appleseeds Academy success story who had always wanted to retrain for a career in the tech industry, but never had the funds to do so. He came across the different skilling paths at Appleseeds Academy and jumped at the opportunity. “There was so much material and information, and everything was free. I felt like a kid in a candy store!”

Tal completed not one, but three courses, and has been working with Appleseeds to build his online presence and uncover new job opportunities.

Through its training centres throughout South Africa, nonprofit Afrika Tikkun has been able to provide access to the learning materials where internet access is limited in some communities. In doing so, organisation has been able to provide jobseekers like Siyavuya Yawa, 24, with an opportunity to upskill herself for a more tech-driven career.

While attending a work readiness programme at an Afrika Tikkun centre in Johannesburg, Siyavuya found out about the Customer Service Specialist learning path and signed up. Following her qualification, she went on to intern at The Skills Hub as a trainee project manager. Not only has she been able to acquire a set of new skills in customer service, but says she has more confidence and is comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd. “I gave an address at the recent Afrika Tikkun Services Alumni Day where I received the CEO Award and it was thrilling!”

Siyavuya has since recommended the learning paths and Afrika Tikkun to her employer so that others will be able to take advantage of the resources available.

Next steps

It just so happens that Siyavuya echoes our sentiments, as we move forward with the next phase of the initiative.

While we have achieved our goal of skilling 25 million people, we realise that training is not enough; people need to be able to move from achieving their certification to the workplace. We’ll be taking the lessons we’ve learnt over the last nine months to collaborate with 250,000 companies on increasing the number of skills-based hires in 2021.

To address this need, LinkedIn will roll out a number of new features across its platform for jobseekers, employers and recruiters. Career Coach, a new Microsoft Teams app, will provide guidance to higher education students as they enter the job market and the expanded access to LinkedIn’s Skills Graph will look to create a common skills language. In addition, the learning paths on Microsoft Learn, LinkedIn Learning and GitHub will continue to be available at no cost and the discounts on certifications will remain in place until the end of the year.

A lot has been achieved in the skilling space, but to ensure sustainability, more needs to be done to make the hiring process more fair, dynamic and impactful. It’s through this equitable change that we’ll see true economic recovery.

To find out more, visit the Official Microsoft Blog.

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