Microsoft launches digital skills initiative to help those hit by the COVID-19 economy

Microsoft is making available its learning content, certifications, and job-seeking tools to try to help the estimated 25 million people worldwide whose jobs have been impacted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is launching a new global skills initiative -- with the goal of bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year. Microsoft plans to combine existing and new resources from its LinkedIn and GitHub units, as well as from inside the rest of the company, and make them available for free or cheaply to those who are interested in upskilling and/or retraining for new careers.

Microsoft claims that global unemployment in 2020 may reach a quarter of a billion, based on its own calculations. To help combat the effects of this new COVID-19 pandemic dynamic, Microsoft has a three-pronged plan: To use data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed for them; to provide free access to learning content to help people acquire the needed skills; and to deliver low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools.

Microsoft is positioning the LinkedIn Economic Graph -- which tracks workforce trends and skills gaps in digital form -- as the source of the data on jobs and skills. The content will come from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, and the GitHub Learning Lab. The certifications will be from Microsoft, and LinkedIn will be the source of the job-seeking tools. All the available resources can be accessed via opportunity.linkedin.com.

Microsoft also identified 10 in-demand jobs globally which officials think will be especially relevant through the next decade:

  • Software developer
  • Sales representative
  • Project manager
  • IT administrator
  • Customer service specialist
  • Digital marketing specialist
  • IT support/help desk pro
  • Data analyst
  • Financial analyst
  • Graphic designer

Microsoft is making available LinkedIn Learning Paths aligned with each of these roles available for free through the end of March 2021. Learning Paths include video content in English, French, Spanish, and German. Each Learning Path includes LinkedIn Learning's library of collaborative courses taught by industry-expert instructors. The company also is offering Microsoft Learn's product-focused technical content for free, which is relevant to each of these roles. 

Microsoft is making exams for its new role-based certifications available for $15 to those who "self-attest" their job situation has been affected by COVID-19. Participants can schedule exams from September to the end of 2020 and will have until March 31, 2021 to complete their exams.

In addition, Microsoft will add a new learning app to its Teams collaboration-hub service by year-end to help commercial customers manage their various sources of online learning content.

Microsoft also is providing $20 million in cash grants to nonprofits worldwide as part of the new initiative.

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