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The Next Economy
Microsoft, LinkedIn Expand Initiative to Enable More Inclusive, Skills-Based Tech Economy in US

The companies have launched a variety of new tools and services aimed at fostering a more inclusive tech workforce in the US, with a specific focus on women and underrepresented minorities.

Microsoft and LinkedIn have launched Career Connector — a service that aims to build on the success of the companies' global skills initiative, launched last summer, which the companies say provided 30.7 million people with free digital skills training during the pandemic.

According to Microsoft President Brad Smith, this new initiative expands the companies’ work and vision in this area, and commits Microsoft and LinkedIn to a new promise to help 250,000 companies make a skills-based hire in 2021 — while fostering a more inclusive tech workforce in the US, with a specific focus on women and underrepresented minorities.

With this work, Microsoft and LinkedIn join a growing number of companies — including Apple, Starbucks, EVERFI, Mastercard and Visa, to name a few — that have directed much-needed resources to education, finance and job placement for women and communities of color, with the goal of creating a more equitable workforce in the US post-pandemic.

From laid-off factory workers to retail associates and truck drivers, Microsoft says millions of people turned to online learning courses from GitHub, LinkedIn and Microsoft during the pandemic last year to help prepare for and land the most in-demand roles — including customer service, project management and data analysis. The new Career Connector program builds on Microsoft’s efforts to help the people hardest hit by the pandemic — namely, women and minorities — by extending free LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft Learn courses and low-cost certifications that align to 10 of the most in-demand jobs, through 2021. The next stage of the initiative sets a new foundation for a skills-based economy through a suite of new tools designed to connect skilled job seekers with employers.

As Smith shared in a blog post: “We are doubling down at LinkedIn and across Microsoft with new work to support a more inclusive, skills-based labor market — creating more alternatives, greater flexibility and accessible learning paths that connect these more readily with new jobs. And we’re strengthening our work in Microsoft Philanthropies to advance digital equity through nonprofit partnerships that serve those hit the hardest by the COVID-19 downturn.”

As Smith goes on to explain in the post, Microsoft decided last summer to make digital equity a special focus of its global skills initiative: “We based this on a recognition that the biggest brunt of the COVID-19 downturn is being borne by those with lower educational attainment, people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, women, younger workers and individuals who have less formal education. We were especially persuaded by the insights offered by Black Lives Matter and created a special focus on Black and African Americans in the United States.”

To that end, Microsoft Philanthropies invested $20 million in grants to nonprofits around the world to help people from underserved communities that are often excluded by the digital economy — including $5 million in grants to 50 Black and African-American-led and -serving digital skilling and workforce development nonprofits in the US. The tech giant also partnered with nonprofits around the world such as Africa Tikkun, to reach underserved learners.

For its part, LinkedIn is working to provide both new ways for job seekers to demonstrate their skills and new tools for employers to connect to candidates based on their skill proficiencies, including a feature called LinkedIn Skills Path: a tool to help recruiters source candidates in a more equitable way — based on their proven skills. LinkedIn is piloting Skills Path with over a dozen companies — including BlackRock, Citrix, Gap, Ralph Lauren, TaskRabbit and Wayfair — that have committed to broadening their hiring practices to better include candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Microsoft also has an eye toward equipping the next generation of workers, supplementing LinkedIn’s work to promote far-reaching digital skills opportunities, including Career Coach — a Microsoft Teams for Education app powered by LinkedIn that provides personalized guidance for higher education students to navigate their career journey. The app helps students discover their goals, interests and skills using an AI-based skills identifier and LinkedIn integration that aligns a student’s comprehensive profile with job market trends; and helps them grow real-world skills and connect with mentors and peers, all in one place.

“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,” said LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky. “Workers are now better understanding and articulating the skills they have and the skills they need, while businesses are looking not just at those familiar credentials but also at the skills that workers from often-overlooked communities have to get the job done. We want to help accelerate that change.”

Learn more about Microsoft’s and LinkedIn’s efforts to enable an equitable COVID recovery and skills market here and here.

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