- Microsoft and the City of Houston are working together to launch Accelerate: Houston, "a new program designed to address economic recovery through skilling both underserved communities and re-skilling the many Americans impacted by COVID-19," according to the Aug. 24 announcement.
- Microsoft, local business partners and a host of educational institutions are combining to offer digital literacy workshops for veterans and transitioning workers, programs for local schools, and training for educators.
- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Jacky Wright, chief digital officer for Microsoft U.S., announced the partnership, which also involves the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. "Accelerate: Houston is the latest U.S. implementation of Microsoft's Global Skills Initiative, an ambitious plan to help 25 million people worldwide acquire new digital skills by the end of the year," the announcement said.
Microsoft announced the Global Skills Initiative June 30, which Accelerate is a part of. The initiative leverages LinkedIn job market data and learning products along with Microsoft certifications and the GitHub Learning Lab to help close the digital skills gap and improve access to digital skills training for underserved and underrepresented communities. The first "Accelerate" program was announced in Atlanta July 1.
Using LinkedIn data, Microsoft identified 10 jobs that have the most job openings, steady growth and good pay, and have applicable skills that can be learned online. That list included jobs like software developer, sales representative, IT administrator, financial analyst and graphic designer, among others. "Much of our skills work is targeted at providing people with the skills for these disciplines," Microsoft’s announcement said.
Skills gaps, particularly digital skills gaps, were an issue for employers even before the pandemic. In early 2019, Gartner called it the "top emerging risk" facing global organizations and the pandemic has only worsened the issue. As people lose jobs due to layoffs and business closures, new job-seekers and small businesses are having trouble adapting.
Microsoft is one of many organizations undertaking public-facing upskilling initiatives, in addition to those actively addressing their skills gaps internally. Regarding the latter, Lincoln Financial and PwC offer a few examples of large-scale organizational upskilling initiatives. Walmart is another example, as the company is engaged with multiple partners to provide education as an employment benefit.
"Resilience and a capacity to reskill are critical competencies for companies that want to excel post COVID-19," WorldatWork CEO Scott Cawood wrote. "Getting people back to work is not going to be the issue. Getting work back to the people will be."
Others making similar external efforts in this space include Target in their corporate home city of Minneapolis, JP Morgan Chase, and education providers 2U and Udemy. Additionally, Zoom, DropBox and Slack are partnered in an apprenticeship program for formerly incarcerated individuals.