About 25m workers are set to get free online training in digital skills from Microsoft, as the computer giant bids to give the ailing global economy a boost amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The training, which will be available to workers around the world, is designed to teach skills that Microsoft says people need to get into 10 occupations, such as help-desk technician, digital marketer, and data analyst.
Microsoft chose the 10 jobs because, according to Linkedin data, demand for them is on the rise, and they pay well relative to similar level positions in other industries.
According to the company’s own estimates, global unemployment might hit 250m in 2020 as a result of the massive demand shock to the economy from the pandemic.
In the US, according to the Congressional Budget Office, about 21m people may lose their jobs this year, taking the unemployment rate from 3.5 per cent to more than one-sixth of the working population – 15.8 per cent.
“The biggest brunt of the current downturn is being borne by those who can afford it the least,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith.
“Unemployment rates are spiking for people of color and women, as well as younger workers, people with disabilities and individuals with less formal education.
“Our goal is to combine the best in technology with stronger partnerships with governments and nonprofits to help people develop the skills needed to secure a new job.”
The training will pull together insights from Microsoft’s core software and cloud computing business as well as its Linkedin and Github subsidiaries.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak welcomed the move. He said: “Re-skilling and re-training are key parts of our Covid recovery programme and digital skills will form a crucial part of that.
He added that it showed how “we can all play a part in contributing to our recovery and driving growth for the future”.
Microsoft said it was also backing the effort with $20m in cash grants to help nonprofit organizations worldwide assist people who are most in need.
About $5m of this will go to community-based nonprofit organizations that are specifically led by and serve people of colour in the United States.