Impact Series

Microsoft, LinkedIn roll out extra initiatives to assist folks construct their abilities and discover jobs

Naria Santa Lucia, head of Microsoft’s Digital Inclusion and Community Engagement at MS Philanthropies, and Ryan Roslansky, CEO of LinkedIn. (Photos via LinkedIn)

More than 30 million people worldwide have used free, online learning courses from Microsoft and its LinkedIn and GitHub subsidiaries to boost their workplace skills during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced additional employment-related initiatives, including programs to help 250,000 companies make what it’s calling “skills-based” hires of job candidates. That includes a program named Skills Path that aims to help employers — including Gap, Taskrabbit, Ralph Lauren and Wayfair, who are participating in the pilot — evaluate candidates based on their skills, including those gained from the free courses.

Another three-year effort dubbed Career Connector plans to match 50,000 newly skilled people seeking tech-related roles with employers who are Microsoft customers or partners.

“This is that first step in that ultimate vision of how can we level the playing field so that everybody, as long as they have the skill and the knowledge and the ability, can get the job,” said Naria Santa Lucia, the head of Microsoft’s Digital Inclusion and Community Engagement at MS Philanthropies, in an interview.

LinkedIn, which has nearly 740 million users, is also announcing new features on its site, including the option of posting a video with your profile so users can share a more personalized view of who they are; a new “Creator mode” that helps users spotlight their content; and Service Pages designed to help freelancers.

“For a long time, the way people got hired was based solely on the job they had, the degree they earned or the people they knew. That’s starting to change,” LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky said in a statement.

Microsoft, which acquired LinkedIn in 2016, launched its work-skills efforts last June as unemployment was soaring.

In April 2020, U.S. unemployment spiked to a record high of 14.7%. Currently some 10 million Americans are without jobs and the unemployment rate is 6.2%. Women and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) workers have been hardest hit by pandemic job losses.

Microsoft initially aimed to reach 25 million people with its online learning courses. It offers 10 training “paths” in areas such as software developer, data analyst and customer service specialist, as well as courses in four soft skills such as communications and working as a team. The instruction comes from LinkedIn Learning, which has 500 online courses addressing skills needed for high-demand roles; Microsoft Learn, technical skills training for Microsoft products and services; and GitHub Learning Lab.

Instruction is free until the end of the year. Santa Lucia did not share information on what the initiatives are costing Microsoft.

“We were able to meet job seekers where they already are,” Santa Lucia said of the online courses’ success. “They’re already going to LinkedIn to put their career profiles out there, as well as get a job… and we’re able to say, ‘Hey, take this moment to improve your prospect and learn new skills.’”

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