Microsoft and LinkedIn partner to help 25M workers gain digital skills

Along with free access to learning content, Microsoft also announced the addition of a learning app to Teams.

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LinkedIn CEO speaking during Microsoft digital event. 

Image: Screenshot

Microsoft introduced its new global skills initiative to provide digital skills to more than 25 million people worldwide who have been displaced by the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement was made during a Microsoft digital event on Tuesday, shedding light on the significant impact COVID-19 has had on employment, as well as introducing a new learning app to Microsoft Teams.

“People are contributing in new ways in essential roles, which have been overlooked and undervalued, to keep our society and economy functioning amidst this pandemic,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, during the digital event. 

“In this time of change, people are hungry to learn, gain new skills, and grow their economic opportunity. It’s been forecasted 800 million people need to learn new skills for their jobs by 2030,” Nadella said.

SEE: Top IT certifications to increase your salary (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“COVID-19 has made the skills gap even more acute—it’s exacerbating economic inequity. People of color, people with disabilities, women…and those who have less formal education are bearing the brunt of this unemployment crisis,” Nadella added. 

Microsoft estimated that global unemployment in 2020 could reach a quarter of a billion. To help prevent this from occurring, the tech company announced a mitigation strategy grounded in three principles: Use data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them; free access to learning paths and content to help people develop those skills; and low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people pursue new jobs. 

The tech giant also mentioned that it would be providing $20 million in cash grants to nonprofits worldwide as a part of their strategy. 

With this approach in mind, here the key announcements Microsoft and LinkedIn made during the presentation. 

Major announcements 

1. LinkedIn Economic Graph 

LinkedIn first released its Economic Graph several years ago to track workforce trends and reveal emerging skills gaps. Since its inception, the graph has become even more critical and insightful, and it is now available to the public. 

Today, the graph presents a digital representation of 690 million professionals, 50 million companies, 11 million job listings, 36,000 defined skills, and 90,000 schools, said Ryan  Roslansky, CEO of LinkedIn, during the digital presentation.

“We’re excited to begin offering some of our labor market insights to policymakers and the public to help understand what jobs and skills are in demand per region,” Roslansky said.

“This labor market insights tool includes data on what companies are hiring, the top jobs companies are hiring for, and the skills needed for those jobs,” Roslansky said. “The data is available and downloadable for more than 180 countries and regions. You can access this tool at opportunity.linkedin.com.” 

By looking at the jobs with the greatest number of openings, steady growth over the past four years, livable wages, and skills that can be learned online, LinkedIn identified the 10 jobs that are most accessible to those seeking employment. 

“We’re also making 10 LinkedIn Learning paths aligned with these roles available for free,” Roslansky said.

Here are the 10 paths: 

  1. Become a Software Developer
  2. Become a Sales Representative
  3. Become a Project Manager
  4. Become an IT administrator (Prepare for CompTIA Network+ Certification)
  5. Become a Customer Service Specialist
  6. Become a Digital Marketing Specialist
  7. Become IT Support / Help Desk (Prepare for the CompTIA A+ Certification)
  8. Become a Data Analyst
  9. Become a Financial Analyst
  10. Become a Graphic Designer

2. Free access to comprehensive resources 

In addition to the free LinkedIn Learning paths, Microsoft also announced that it would offer free in-depth technical learning content through Microsoft Learn. 

“Microsoft Learn content also helps learners prepare for Microsoft certification so they can gain industry recognition for their skills. Through the end of the year, we’re significantly discounting the exams for these certifications for those impacted by COVID-19,” Roslansky said.
Microsoft Certifications will be reduced to $15 for those who can self -attest that their employment has been impacted by COVID-19. Users will have until March 31, 2021, to complete the exam. 

“We’ll also enable job seekers pursuing developer roles to access the GitHub Learning Lab to practice their skills. GitHub learning lab is a bot-based learning tool that uses repositories to teach technology, coding, Git, and GitHub via real-life demo based modules,” Roslansky said. 

“This means that as job seekers engage in learning paths, they’ll have the opportunity to practice newly acquired skills by completing realistic projects in a personalized GitHub repository,” Roslansky added. 

Once users learn those skills, they can easily add them to their LinkedIn profile, he added.

3. More tools for job seekers

LinkedIn also created four horizontal LinkedIn Learning paths employees and job seekers can use to make themselves more competitive and resourceful.  

The paths include the following: 

Additionally, LinkedIn announced new interview prep tools that leverage Microsoft artificial intelligence (AI). 

“When job seekers get to that critical interview phase, we want to help them demonstrate their skills through effective interviewing,” Roslansky said. “We’re offering free interview prep tools, including a newly launched feature, leveraging Microsoft AI for real-time feedback on your answers.”  

This also includes a new tool called Open to Work, which allows job seekers to let employers and the LinkedIn network know they are seeking employment. 

4. Learning app in Microsoft Teams

The last major announcement Microsoft made introduced the Microsoft Teams learning app. 

“A new Microsoft Teams app will help organizations skill and upskill employees, surfacing learning content in the context of their day-to-day work,” Nadella said. “By applying our technologies and partnering across the private and public sectors, we believe we can make progress in closing the skills gap.”

The app will allow employers to merge content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, the 
customer’s own content base, and third-party providers into one place. 

A demo of the app was shown during the virtual event, displaying how managers can assign and track learning progress, and how employees can gain recognition and certifications.

The app will be available later this year, according to a blog post

For more, check out Microsoft launches digital skills initiative to help those hit by the COVID-19 economy on ZDNet. 

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