Coming out of the pandemic, education systems have faced huge challenges, including a shortage of skilled teachers, the rising cost of education, a cumulative learning loss, and increased awareness of the inequality of access to learning. These challenges don’t only affect the schools though; they affect the entire world economy.

Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. It’s a people-centric mission and we want to make a difference in the lives of individuals and their communities with a diverse range of skills, cultures, and backgrounds. This is why Microsoft has partnered with various education systems and leaders to help improve our world through education. We provide free professional development learning opportunities through Microsoft Learn to help students gain valuable in-demand skills to prepare them when entering the workforce.

By upskilling students, we empower individuals to increase productivity, which in turn helps create a more competitive labor market and develop economic growth in countries around the world. 

Keeping up with the pace of change for in-demand digital skills

A difficult challenge faced by educators and leaders with future workforce skilling is keeping up with the pace of change for digital skills. Year over year, the skills in demand evolve. It is estimated that 85 million jobs will be displaced by 2025 because of the fast automation of the workforce. However, it is also estimated that the robot revolution will create 97 million new jobs, only there likely won’t be enough skilled people to fill the roles1. Furthermore, studies show 68% of students don’t understand what skills are needed to start their career, and 80% of employers believe graduates do not arrive fully equipped with skills necessary for their job2. Pinpointing the specific digital skills that will be the most in-demand in the future can be difficult, which is one reason many employers place non-technical skills high on their list. These skills, such as analytical thinking, creativity and flexibility, communications, and content creation are skills education systems can focus on building in their students today, regardless of the path of study.

There is also a proven set of digital skills, both consumptive and productive, that is showing to have earning power no matter the chosen career path. Consumptive digital capabilities are skills that enable learners to use existing digital tools and systems, such as Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, and Office 365. For students, these are vital to ensure their workplace productivity and support further studies

Productive or creative, innovative digital capabilities are skills that enable learners to use tools like cloud, data and AI to create solutions and processes for themselves and others, including training and developing AI, analyzing and understanding data and databases or creating digital materials using coding. A foundational aptitude in these areas is increasingly important in every type of job.

Digital skills are needed in every job

An example of how digital skills are relevant to every student comes from Milton Keynes College in the UK. Its health and social care students will one day be responsible for caring for patients, a role which is traditionally associated with face-to-face contact. But as part of their course, they were shown how augmented reality technology was being used in a COVID-19 ward to help healthcare teams experience what was happening with the patients, without having to expose themselves to infection. This is a great illustration of how digital disruption is empowering healthcare professionals.  

“Every sector is getting closer to the center of that digital vortex. Is every nurse going to have to be a data scientist? Absolutely not. Is a nurse going to have to be able to read the warning signs, because actually the data that is informing their ward is saying that patient X is going to need more care than patient Y today? Yes.” - Alex Warner, Principal, Milton Keynes College, England  

Planning for digital transformation and addressing the skills demand is just one step; implementation is an equally daunting hurdle. Based on feedback from discussions with vice chancellors, provosts, principals, and various university senior leaders from across the world, there are significant barriers to facilitating digital capabilities. However, it’s a whole team effort and you don’t have to do it all at once. A first step can be as simple as an educator looking for curriculum, program officers looking for certification, students looking for cloud credits, or institutions looking for transformation. Shai Reshef, Founder and President of the University of the People said, “When you educate one person you can change a life, when you educate many you can change the world.” With the transformative power that education can bring, we must reach students at every level, every background, and every skill level.

Microsoft an ideal partner for future-ready students

Microsoft is partnering with education systems and school leaders across the globe to ensure learners are as prepared as can be. Future-ready students are ones that are certified smart and certified capable. Microsoft is an ideal partner with scalable and up-to-date learning paths, digital products, solutions, and resources customizable for every system and for every level. This is an important step in how we can improve our world through education with skilling—building skills that open doors in everyone’s career with Microsoft Learn.

Microsoft Learn focuses on three main areas to drive employability skills and connections to careers for students across education. Microsoft is committed to expanding our partnerships and collaboration with secondary schools, colleges, and universities in these three areas to help increase relevance, bolster the industry alignment of academic programs, save educators’ time, save schools on costs, and assist students with better preparation for careers of the future.

  • Flexible, on-demand Learning Paths and Credentials
  • Emerging and relevant content and experiences
  • Access to industry-leading developer tools

“In this fast-paced digital age, COVID-19 has reminded us that we must move rapidly to fill any digital skills gaps and ensure our faculty researchers have access to the newest tools in the industry. We’re proud to welcome Microsoft into the Cincinnati Innovation District. Their partnership on this very important initiative will be transformative.” - Neville Pinto, President, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Microsoft Learn can help students and educators to:

  • See new possibilities in technology to help you achieve your goals and reach your potential no matter where you are in your career or learning journey.
  • Learn by doing through interactive learning experiences and technical resources that help you build skills and solve problems.
  • Showcase your skills with certifications and achievements that demonstrate your expertise.
  • Connect and engage with a community of other learners for inspiration, resources, and networking.
  • Connect universities and leading commercial partners and governments in skills consortia to provide practical educational opportunities for upskilling and reskilling the technical workforce. A fine example of bringing together the employer demand with relevant technical education leveraging Microsoft Learn launched this month with the latest skills initiative in New South Wales, Australia, via the Institute of Applied Technology - TAFE NSW.

Here are our top resources to help in developing the most in-demand skills for the future of work:

  • Microsoft Learn & Certifications – Learning resources to best prepare learners with skills development for in-demand jobs and Microsoft industry-recognized certifications. And for educators and schools, the Microsoft Learn for Educators Program (MSLE) includes access to Microsoft official courseware, teaching and learning resources and study materials for integration with existing institution degrees, certificates and diplomas.
  • Career Coach - Career Coach is a Microsoft Teams App powered by LinkedIn, designed to help students discover their unique career path, grow real-world skills and build their network in one place.
  • Azure Education Hub - Helps academic users provision and manage cloud credit across many different Azure services and supporting cloud-based student projects.
  • Linkedin Learning - With over 16,000 courses taught by industry experts, LinkedIn Learning provides online training to supplement an institution’s existing curriculum and help create more career-ready students across multiple different disciplines.

Read more about the students in Hong Kong who leveraged Azure cloud skills to solve real world problems, attracting recruiters and global awards.

“It’s especially important for students to have knowledge of cloud computing to be able to complete their daily tasks. To do something in IT, you need to practice. Employers want someone to do it—not talk about it.” - Cyrus Chun Yin Wong, Senior Lecturer, Department of Information Technology, Hong Kong IVE

Learn more how University of Lincoln worked with Microsoft to equip students with in-demand skills. 

“We really view cloud computing as one of the pillars of skills that students need. We offer students Azure Fundamentals as part of their academic degree programme because it demonstrates competencies and skillsets in a very valuable industry context.” - Dr. Derek Foster, Computer Science Programme Leader, University of Lincoln, England

The imperative is clear: to build relevant skills with students to benefit economic and workforce development around the world. Microsoft is prepared to partner and align with the mission. So what is holding us back? We invite you to start the journey today with Microsoft Learn.

1 The Future of Jobs Report 2020 | World Economic Forum

2 Degree + Digital | Microsoft & LinkedIn