Microsoft announces global skills initiative, funding for Canadian nonprofits

The initiative seeks to help equip workers impacted by COVID-19 with digital skills

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Microsoft has announced a new global initiative to help 25 million people impacted by COVID-19 retool their skillset with new digital skills. The initiative includes several Canadian nonprofits.

The Redmond, Washington-based company says that data shows organizations and individuals that “invest in digital transformations are better positioned to weather the disruption caused by the pandemic.” For example, Canadian data sourced from LinkedIn shows this shift has already lead to accelerated demand for workers with digital skills and certificates.

Microsoft says that software and IT services, as well as finance, saw the largest increase in net hires in the first quarter of 2020. Further, tech represented nine percent of total employment in Canada and software engineers had the highest share of hiring.

To help equip people impacted by the pandemic to transition into these industries, Microsoft says it will combine existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub and itself. In doing so, Microsoft will provide free access to learning content, invest in access to in-demand skills training, offer low-cost tests that provide industry-recognized certifications and deliver free connections to employability tools.

Microsoft giving grants to nonprofits, including some in Canada

On top of that, Microsoft will provide $20 million USD (roughly $27.4 million CAD) in cash grants for nonprofit organizations to assist the people who need it most. That includes three Canadian nonprofits: NPower Canada, Canada Learning Code (CLC) in partnership with the Juno College of Technology, and Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada (ICTC).

NPower and Microsoft will join forces to support its core ‘Workforce Development’ program, which provides participants with no-cost skills training, industry certification, job placement and career services. Further, the grant will fund the launch of a new Microsoft Data-AI training stream and will help equip at least 400 underserved, unemployed and underemployed young adults with new skills and help move them into employment. Additionally, it will help support NPower’s expansion efforts into new markets in Canada, including Vancouver B.C.

As for CLC, Microsoft will invest in the ‘Pathways to Tech’ pilot project, which supports the development of a program between CLC and Juno College of Technology for female-identified, trans and non-binary adults to access careers in web development. The program helps remove the first barrier of entry for 65 high-potential learners and provides a post-graduate transition to a career in web development.

Finally, Microsoft and ICTC will team up to support the ‘Digital, Equity and Employability Pathways’ program, which is a national employment readiness program. Additionally, the program will support the ‘Go-Talent’ and ‘Digital Skills for Youth’ programs, which will offer services such as soft and technical skills training, career services and employment pathways to assist 1,000 newcomers to Canada, Indigenous persons and unemployed and underemployed working-age youth.

Those interested in learning more about the initiative can check out Microsoft’s official blog post detailing the problems, goals and solutions put forward by the company.