Tackling the skills shortage: our new 5 million commitment

Today sees the launch of the European Commission’s new Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, which aims to develop an inclusive digital talent pool for the jobs of the future. With the world of work set to be transformed by the digital revolution and cloud-based technologies, equipping young people with the digital skills needed in the 21st century labor market is as pressing as ever.

That’s why, as part of our commitment to the new Coalition we’re pledging to increase access to computer science education and digital skills training for 5 million young people across all 28 EU countries over the next two years.

We’ll be focusing on impacting both teachers and students, as well as committing to reach at least 50% girls via our Microsoft YouthSpark grants. These support non-profit partners in delivering digital skills training to thousands of young people across Europe. In the last year, for instance, we’ve helped our partners teach robotics and 3D animation to 1,400 Czech youth, train almost 15,000 unemployed Spaniards in computer science, and support digital skills dissemination in Poland’s rural communities.

We think it’s particularly important to foster young women’s interest in computer science and digital competencies, so we can create a more diverse pipeline of talent for the ICT industry and beyond. Currently, many girls lose interest in pursuing science, technology, mathematics or engineering (STEM) subjects in their mid-teens; the result of which means that women represent just 30% of Europe’s ICT industry. With STEM skills of increasing value for a number of businesses, other sectors are also missing out on female talent. This needs to change, and we hope our new commitment can go some way to helping. In early 2017 we’ll also be sharing the results of comprehensive pan-European research that outlines the steps government and industry need to take to bring more girls and young women into STEM studies and careers.

We’ll be realizing our pledge via programs and resources such as the Microsoft Imagine hub  and Kodu Game Lab, which provide aspiring programmers of all skills level with the tools to turn their ideas into reality. And we’re placing a continued focus on our support for the Hour of Code which has helped almost 300 million young people worldwide discover the creativity of coding. Next week for instance, our Hour of Code activities in Hungary will reach almost 5,000 young people, while in Poland, 181 different cities will host coding workshops for kids of all ages and abilities.

Last but by no means least, we’ll be focusing on teachers. There are some fantastic trailblazers in Europe’s classrooms, who are forging ahead to create engaging and interactive learning experiences for their digitally-savvy students, for example by integrating technologies such as Minecraft into their lesson plans. To make this the norm, not the exception, we’ve created an environment for teachers to exchange best practices and increase their digital confidence: the Microsoft Educator Community. Through the resources, certification programs and peer engagement provided here, we are training 80,000 EU teachers a year to become digital pioneers and inspire new ways of teaching and learning.

Our strong commitment to equipping young people with the skills for success is not new. Since the beginning, we have been a staunch supporter of the European Commission’s Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs. We’ve delivered above and beyond our previous pledge to create 13,500 high-quality apprenticeships and internships for European youth, by creating almost 15,000 placements since 2013. This has given thousands of talented young people like Megan the chance to get ahead in their careers.

Europe’s young people are brimming with potential. As we look to the future, we must ensure they can realize it. The European Commission’s Youth Initiative, to be launched on December 7, aims to more closely align education with labor market needs. It’s clear that there is a political will to act is. We are ready to contribute to broadening young people’s opportunities and ensuring no one is left behind by the digital revolution.


Sylvie Laffarge
Director Philanthropies Europe

Sylvie Laffarge is Director of Philanthropies Europe. She joined Microsoft in 2006 and currently leads Microsoft's YouthSpark and Technology for Good efforts across Europe, driving alignment with European public policy priorities around issues related to youth, employment, digital skills, entrepreneurship, and CSR. Launched in 2012, Microsoft YouthSpark is a global, company-wide initiative designed to create opportunities for three hundred million youth around the world. Through partnerships with governments, nonprofits and businesses, its aim is to empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities. Sylvie previously held leadership and external representation roles in numerous CSR, ICT policy and trade associations and non-profits in Brussels, on the subject of youth employment, ICT and skills. Prior to joining Microsoft she led the corporate community relations office for The Walt Disney Company. She pioneered Disney's community affairs strategy in Europe and was instrumental during her 17 year tenure in developing the company's strong socially responsible profile. Sylvie Laffarge brought relevance to Disney's donation portfolio and initiated signature programs such as Disney's Compassionate Program, Disney VoluntEARS and the DisneyHand effort in Europe. Sylvie Laffarge is a graduate and post-graduate of the University of La Sorbonne in Paris.