Boosting digital skills for all: An update on the European impact of our global skills initiative

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With the announcement of Europe’s Digital Decade earlier this month, the European Commission confirmed its ambitions for the region’s digital transformation.

Empowering people to make the most of digital opportunities is a central part of this vision and promoting access to skills will form a key part of Europe’s digital compass for the next 10 years.

To ensure that everyone can benefit from digitization and is skilled for the digital society, the European Commission plans to equip at least 80% of European citizens with basic digital skills, employ 20 million IT specialists in the EU and encourage more women to work in tech, with the help of existing initiatives such as the European Skills Agenda and the Digital Education Action Plan.

As we look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, these ambitions will be key in ensuring Europe’s recovery, including for people hardest hit by job losses in the last 12 months.

Helping job seekers and employers move to a skill-based economy

For these reasons, last year Microsoft, LinkedIn, and GitHub launched a global skills initiative to help 25 million people worldwide gain the skills to succeed in our increasingly digital world of work.

Less than a year later, we’ve surpassed that goal by reaching over 30 million people globally. Almost 9 million people were reached across Europe, of which over 6 million were in the EU.

Based on what we’ve learned along the way, we announced today plans to extend the global skills initiative to reach even more job seekers and employers. We’re extending our commitment by helping 250,000 companies make a skills-based hire in 2021, boosting understanding of skills among both employers and governments.

To do so, we’re introducing the following resources designed to help job seekers and employers all over Europe move to a more skills-based economy.

We’re ensuring broader, free access to LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft Learn courses and providing discounted certifications through the end of 2021.

Tools will also be introduced to help those looking for work showcase their skills and find the right job. New LinkedIn profile features will allow people to share more about themselves in an engaging and authentic way, and Career Coach, a new Microsoft Teams app powered by LinkedIn and Microsoft, will help students navigate their career journey. A new online platform, Microsoft’s Career Connector, will help place 50,000 job seekers in tech-enabled jobs over the next three years.

We’ll also be piloting LinkedIn Skills Paths, a new way to help companies hire for skills, alongside expanding access to LinkedIn’s Skills Graph, which will create a common skills language to improve hiring.

The global skills initiative in action throughout Europe

Since the launch of our global skills initiative last June, we’ve been fortunate to work with governments, NGO’s and industry partners across Europe in successfully implementing the program at national level. Here are a few examples:

In Italy, Fondazione Mondo Digitale and National Employment Centers have set-up 3 centers in Rome to help people reskill to fill in-demand job opportunities. Looking ahead, the program will be expanded to Bari and Palermo, with discussions on national rollout currently underway. 110,000 unemployed people have taken part to date, with 5,552 participants having already completed their courses and, most importantly, 278 having found work.

In partnership with the regional government of Madrid, the Create Your Future/CreaFuturo program provides technical training to final year university students and people looking for work, while also helping them apply for local job opportunities in need of their new skills profiles. This year, the program will welcome 375 participants, and will specifically focus on securing job placements for those taking part.

As recognized by the European Commission in its Digital Compass, there is an urgent need for more gender equity in the labor market. To help achieve this, ReGeneration, an NGO in Greece, is working to give over 4,000 job-seekers the skills they need to find work, with a specific focus on empowering women in tech. Upon completing the program, 100 people receive concrete job offers to put their newly acquired skills to use.

In Ireland, Microsoft has worked in partnership with Fastrack to IT and Prodigy Learning to develop and launch a digital skills training program to support workers in industries most affected by the pandemic, such as hospitality, tourism and the service industry. Stepin2Tech will support 10,000 learners across the country who are looking to embark on an education pathway to fill the in-demand jobs of the future.

In all of these initiatives, the real benefits of digital skills are illustrated by the inspiring stories of jobseekers adversely affected by the pandemic. Their drive and determination fuel our own ambitions to continue to make tech fit for Europe.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its wide-ranging implications, have accelerated the demand for digital skills across many sectors. At Microsoft, we look forward to working alongside the European Union, governments, NGOs and industry partners to make sure everyone can make the most of digital opportunities. We proudly joined the European Commission’s Pact for Skills in November 2020 to cooperate with public and private actors in upskilling and reskilling people in Europe.

Every European citizen should have the opportunity to be part of Europe’s digital decade and – in the words of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen – “access the very best the digital world can offer”.


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.