Microsoft South Africa is announcing details of the local programme aligned to the recently launched Global Skills Initiative, aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25-million people worldwide by the end of the year. The initiative is a response to the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unemployment is an ongoing challenge in South Africa, with statistics showing that it increased to 30,1% in the first quarter of the year, and economists warning that it is likely to continue rising because of the impact of the pandemic.
“Expanded access to digital skills is an important step in accelerating economic recovery, especially for the people hardest hit by job losses. There was already a shift to digital technologies and increasing demand for people with digital skills even before the pandemic struck, but it has accelerated the need for these types of skills,” says Siya Madyibi, legal and corporate affairs director at Microsoft South Africa.
The initiative includes immediate steps to help those looking to reskill and pursue an in-demand job using existing and new resources from LinkedIn, Microsoft and GitHub. This is made up of:
* Data and analytics. Using data to understand the most in-demand skills and jobs that are likely to lead to good career opportunities. This helps Microsoft identify the training resources they provide. Current in-demand jobs in South Africa include software developer or engineer, data analyst, IT support/help desk technician, network administrator, and digital marketing specialist.
* Free learning resources. Offering access to free learning content from across Microsoft Learn, LinkedIn and GitHub that supports learning paths needed for these in-demand roles, to help people develop the skills needed for these in-demand jobs.
* Connecting skills to opportunities through certifications and job seeker tools. Providing low-cost access to industry-recognised certifications, and free access to powerful job-seeker tools that will help people get hired once they have the skills and certifications. Microsoft is also encouraging corporate South Africa to help the unemployed access Microsoft certification at a reduced cost, and support them with data and connectivity.
This is a comprehensive technology initiative that will build on data and digital technology. It starts with data on jobs and skills from the LinkedIn Economic Graph. It provides free access to content in LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and the GitHub Learning Lab, and couples those with Microsoft Certifications and LinkedIn job seeking tools. All of these resources are available at a central location, opportunity.linkedin.com.
While these resources are broadly available online to South Africans, vulnerable job seekers from poorer and more remote areas will need additional support on their journey. This is why Microsoft is backing the effort by partnering with strategic long-term partner non-profits like Afrika Tikkun to drive the programme and assist the people who need it most.
Afrika Tikkun helps young people from underprivileged South African communities through skills development and work readiness programmes – while also helping meet their nutrition, health and social needs.
The grant will allow Afrika Tikkun to work with unemployed South Africans to identify the best learning paths to follow based on their existing skillset and the most in-demand skills and jobs in South Africa identified through data and analytics. This will help the unemployed focus on equipping themselves with the skills needed to compete for jobs in a more digital economy.
Microsoft is also partnering with corporate companies and customers, who have committed to make training labs with connectivity available to jobseekers, co-fund some Microsoft certifications and market the programme on their social media channels to raise awareness.
“Digital literacy is still a challenge in South Africa. There are many young people who are able to access digital-related programmes in schools or at community centres, but the majority still do not even have this necessary requirement from a skills point of view. Digital literacy needs to be considered seriously; it is something that we need to think about; how we can accelerate access to it for young and unemployed people. There is an opportunity available now to help take South Africans to the next level,” says Onyinye Nwaneri, CEO of Afrika Tikkun.
Partnering to bring together resources that have the power to reimagine how people learn and apply new skills to prepare for the workplace of the future, as well as create opportunities to equip unemployed South Africans with much-needed digital skills is a priority for Microsoft.
“Our goal is to combine the best in technology with stronger partnerships with organisations like LinkedIn, GitHub and Afrika Tikkun to help empower people to develop the skills needed to secure a new job. We are, for instance, encouraged by our learning partners who are offering access to their classroom facilities and devices for unemployed people to book training and use the facilities at no cost, and are excited to continue collaborating with partners to provide expanded access to digital skills,” concludes Madyibi.