Microsoft's Global Skills InitiativeIn the wake of COVID-19, economies across the world have been hit hard. Countries alike have seen decreases across all economic sectors as quarantine and stay-at-home orders were mandated in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. People transitioned to working remotely, while millions of others lost their jobs entirely due to market crashes. In an effort to cushion the economic travesty that the pandemic has bought, Microsoft is launching a global initiative, partnering with LinkedIn and Github, to teach 25 million people across the world new digital skills. Microsoft’s global skills initiative aims to remedy the global economic impact that has come with COVID-19.

Digital Skills

Microsoft believes these newfound digital skills will give people the ability to take on jobs where digital skills are necessary in order to be successful. The initiative targets those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic, as well as minorities, women and others affected by poverty.

Recent statistics predict that over 250 million people globally may be unemployed by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19. Microsoft found that in the U.S. alone, in May 2020, women had an unemployment rate of 14.4% compared to men who were at 12%. Additionally, Latinx populations had unemployment rates of 16.7%, which is much higher than other groups. These statistics indicate why the initiative particularly targets populations such as women and minorities.

By learning digital skills, those who are at an economic disadvantage will be able to take on jobs in the digital age and improve their economic status. Those who attain these newfound skills might even be able to teach others and distribute their knowledge to uplift an entire community.

Three-step Process

The three partnered companies have come up with a three-step process that they hope will encourage economic growth in communities across the globe. The first part relates to the Linkedin Economic Graph. The Economic Graph is a digital representation of the global economy based on more than 690 million professionals, 50 million companies, 11 million job listings, 36,000 defined skills and 90,000 schools. In short, it is data that shows available jobs and their required skills as well as global hiring rates. These insights will help create economic opportunities for the global workforce.

The second part consists of free tools, programs and content that people will be provided with, in order to learn the skills necessary for job applications. This initiative will give people free access to content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and the GitHub Learning Lab.

Thirdly, low-cost certifications and other cost-free job-seeking tools will be available to help people pursue new jobs with their newly developed skills.

Along with this digital skills initiative, Microsoft will be backing $20 million worth of cash grants that will be distributed across the globe to different nonprofit organizations. These grants will help nonprofits to combat the effects of the pandemic and allow the nonprofits to further extend reach in order to help more people.

Microsoft believes that global shutdowns and social distancing have accelerated the path to digitalization in all fields and economies. The company knows that digital tools are now necessary regardless of the field of work and will continue to be relevant far after the pandemic has passed. Microsoft’s global skills initiative may help the world’s economic recovery and may possibly uplift the entire globe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

George Hashemi
Photo: Flickr

Global Education Industry Summit Challenges Education Systems

The First Global Education Industry Summit brought together education policy makers and education-related industry leaders to exchange ideas on how education has evolved and revealed strategies for innovation.

Held in Helsinki, Finland on Oct. 19 and 20, the summit was the ideal location because Finland is known for its strong education system.

“Finland’s education system is well regarded worldwide for its teacher education approach, and for the status that the teaching profession enjoys,” said Education Minister Hekia Parata.

The summit was jointly organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Commission (EC) and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

During the summit, Finland’s Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen discussed the importance of social change and how this correlates with keeping children in school and continuing their education.

“We need to challenge our education systems in order to keep up with current social change and expectations to encourage people to learn continuously,” said Grahn-Laasonen.

Since the digital era has made an immense impact on education, Finland announced it will introduce a new national curriculum emphasizing digital skills in August 2016.

Ranked fifth in the world for education, Finland also desires to place more emphasis on phenomenon-based learning.

Instead of passively receiving information from teachers in traditional subject learning, students have the opportunity to work alongside teachers to develop projects while taking responsibility for their own learning.

Phenomenon-based learning also deals with the incorporation of modern technology, in particular, online instruction and game-based learning.

Through these strategies, Finland hopes to prepare its students for the evolving demands of higher education and an ever-changing workforce.

“One of the common themes of the discussions was how much education systems can learn from each other, but it is also important to recognize that each system is particular to its own culture and society,” says Minister Parata.

While the next summit will be held in Israel in 2016, representatives and international organizations hope education reforms will trigger more students to receive the education they deserve to succeed.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Noodle, Ranking America, Scoop, Xinhua Net
Photo: Flickr