The COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing needed to contain it is likely to cause a major unemployment crisis over the next few months, and Microsoft is not content to sit on the sidelines and simply watch the penny drop.

Microsoft contends that retraining workers to make them more fit for the new economy will save millions of jobs, and have set themselves a target of bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year.

The global effort will involve resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft.

Microsoft plans to use data on jobs and skills from the LinkedIn Economic Graph and free access to content in LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, and the GitHub Learning Lab, and couples these with low-cost Microsoft Certifications and LinkedIn job-seeking tools.

In 3 simple steps, the plan is as follows:

  1. The use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them;
  2. Free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require;
  3. Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.

Opportunities

Microsoft identified 10 jobs as having the greatest number of job openings, have had steady growth over the past four years, pay a livable wage, and require skills that can be learned online.

These include:

  • Become a Software Developer
  • Become a Sales Representative
  • Become a Project Manager
  • Become an IT administrator (Prepare for CompTIA Network+ Certification)
  • Become a Customer Service Specialist
  • Become a Digital Marketing Specialist
  • Become IT Support / Help Desk (Prepare for the CompTIA A+ Certification)
  • Become a Data Analyst
  • Become a Financial Analyst
  • Become a Graphic Designer

Training

Much of Microsoft’s skills work is targeted at providing people with the skills for these opportunities and Microsoft is offering free and in-depth technical learning content that also supports these roles. For roles that are more technical in nature, job seekers can go deeper on specific role-based Microsoft technologies with Microsoft Learn modules, gaining the most in-demand skills on widely used technologies.

Microsoft Learn is a new learning app in Microsoft Teams designed to help employers upskill new and existing employees.

Microsoft is also specifically offering to upskill developers via the GitHub Learning Lab, a bot-based learning tool that uses repositories to teach technology, coding, Git, and GitHub via real-life, demo-based modules.

Microsoft is also looking at making the actual process of getting a job easier and less intimidating by offering 4 related LinkedIn Learning paths including:

  • Job seeker – Finding a Job During Challenging Economic Times
  • Critical soft skills – Master In-Demand Professional Soft Skills
  • Digital transformation – Digital Transformation in Practice: Virtual Collaboration Tools
  • Allyship and inclusive conversations – Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging for All

Certification

Lastly, Microsoft aims to make it easier to demonstrate knowledge to employers with low-cost Microsoft Certification. Microsoft is making Microsoft Certifications exams available at a significantly discounted fee of $15 to those who self-attest that their employment has been impacted by COVID-19.

Participants will have the ability to schedule an exam from September to the end of the year, and exam takers will have until March 31, 2021 to complete the exam. This will provide access to the exams that provide five fundamentals certifications and eight role-based certifications. These will include:

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Power Platform App Maker Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Teams Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Developer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate

These exams will be available initially in whole or in part in seven languages – English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese (simplified), and Korean.

Job search

LinkedIn is further making available tools to help individuals identify and pursue potential jobs. This includes a recently developed job interview preparation-feature, powered by MSFT-AI, to prepare and practice for job interviews. It also includes a new feature called #OpenToWork, which enables job seekers to surface to employers the roles for which they would like to be considered. Through a simple LinkedIn profile photo frame, #OpenToWork enables job seekers to let employers and the LinkedIn network know they are actively seeking a new opportunity, indicate the type of job they are looking for, express their needs for support, and get help from the LinkedIn community to find new opportunities. These resources can be accessed at opportunity.linkedin.com.

Activism

Microsoft is backing the effort with $20 million in cash grants to help nonprofit organizations worldwide assist the people who need it most. One-quarter of this total, or $5 million, will be provided in cash grants to community-based nonprofit organizations that are led by and serve communities of colour in the United States.

To help planners LinkedIn is also sharing free, real-time labour market data and skills insights to help governments, policymakers and business leaders understand what’s happening in their local labour markets: what companies are hiring, the top jobs companies are hiring for and the trending skills for those jobs. This data can be accessed using a new interactive tool at linkedin.com/workforce.

Read more about Microsoft’s effort and their further activism in their detailed blog post here.

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