Bridging the skills gap in the digital technology industry

Digital technology has brought new opportunities to innovate, compete and drive economic growth. But the skills needed to make the most of these opportunities are in short supply. We take a look at how Microsoft is tackling the problem

Jacqui Griffiths
By Jacqui Griffiths on 16 October 2017
Bridging the skills gap in the digital technology industry

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 issue of The Record.

Across the world, governments recognise that preparing a next-generation workforce with the skills it needs is key to enabling greater opportunities and better quality of life for individuals and communities.

These objectives are closely aligned with the United Nations’ eighth Sustainable Development Goal – to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

In sectors such as education, transforming the way students learn, the way educators teach, and aligning to the skills employers want – and the entrepreneurial skills to create jobs – is imperative in achieving these goals. Microsoft shares these priorities with country leaders.

With a keen focus on technology and extensive experience in the public sector, Microsoft works closely with government and non-governmental organisations, schools, educators and businesses to develop the technology skills of students, empower developers and start-ups, and help today’s workers acquire the skills they need for tomorrow.

More than 50% of today’s jobs require some technology skills, and a recent report from the US Department of Labor indicated that that percentage will increase to 77% in less than a decade.

The challenge for country leaders is to create a skills pipeline that meets those demands. Too often – at school, college or work – people are not gaining the skills employers want.

This means empowering people with future-ready digital skills is a key priority for governments around the world. With technology contributing to a globalised market, the capabilities it brings for innovation and agility can be key drivers of economic growth. Technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and the internet of things are transforming the way all of us work, consume and interact. Referred to as Industry 4.0, this change is affecting every industry and discipline, and a growing range of digital and ‘soft’ or business skills are needed for jobs at every level.

It’s therefore vital that programmes and solutions are developed to focus on career-ready skills that employers need and recognise. Start-ups and developers need to be empowered so they can innovate and create new opportunities. And as technology advances, the skills needed to engage in the digital economy – and to succeed in a world of constant change – will need continuous development too.

But how is Microsoft working to turn this vision into a reality? A good place to start is STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Demand for STEM-related workers continues grow, but there is a significant shortage in those skills – especially when it comes to the ‘T’ in STEM: technology.

To help tackle this, Microsoft supports STEM policies and education programmes globally, with a focus on student outcomes across a learning spectrum, including digital literacy, productivity skills, computer science and programming, and IT skills.

In this vein, Microsoft’s global YouthSpark initiative has been set up to make computer science education and digital skills available to all young people, especially girls and other underrepresented groups. YouthSpark has created educational, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for more than 300 million young people around the world. Microsoft YouthSpark inspires young people to pursue a career enabled by technology and connects them to greater opportunities. For example, the DigiGirlz programme provides opportunities for middle and high school girls to learn about careers in technology. This is key to developing their talent, as research has found that when girls don’t have early experience of a field they are more likely to rely on stereotyped ideas about who might be suited to it. Through DigiGirlz however, budding STEM and computer scientists can connect with Microsoft employees and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops.

Learning digital skills helps young people to develop the ‘soft’ or business skills – such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, problem solving and innovation – that will open opportunities for them. In addition, Microsoft helps prepare students for further IT studies and careers, as well as providing learning assets for adults and mid-life career changers seeking to capitalise on opportunities in the digital economy.

YouthSpark is one of a range of programmes and solutions Microsoft has aimed at inspiring young people to explore a passion for technology. Programmes are also in place aimed at helping more advancing students and adults to gain technology skills with connection to future employability and careers. No other technology company can share the breadth and depth of technical skills curriculum and offerings connected to jobs across a multitude of industries and public and private sector opportunities.

This article is based on Microsoft’s free workforce development e-book, Empowering a -Future-Ready Workforce. Download the full e-book at: info.microsoft.com/EmpoweringaFuture-ReadyWorkforce-Registration.html

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