Microsoft and LinkedIn Advance Plan for Upskilling Employees

The pandemic-induced lockdown resulted in the loss of more than 250 million jobs, but Microsoft and LinkedIn have a plan for upskilling those individuals and connecting them with potential employers.

Richard Hay, Senior Content Producer

April 9, 2021

3 Min Read
upskilling microsoft image

The disruption to the workforce over the last twelve months has been significant due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns. And with the upswing in hybrid workplaces – a mix of remote and in-office workdays – there are increased demands for tech-focused jobs. Enter the idea of upskilling employees by helping workers add complementary skills to their arsenal.

Last year Microsoft and LinkedIn launched a global skills initiative program that targeted getting 25 million people digital skills training at no cost. The program also included low-cost certifications and tools for pursuing jobs in the tech industry. The program exceeded expectations, clocking more than 30 million people participating.

Following that success, the next phase of this global skills effort is being launched, as recently announced by Microsoft President Brad Smith.

According to Smith, this new approach to upskilling employees is in response to this past year and the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our plans are grounded in a vision of what is needed for a more inclusive post-pandemic recovery. COVID-19 has led to record unemployment numbers, disrupting livelihoods of people around the world," Smith noted.

The free content access for learning and low-cost certifications introduced last year will be extended to support this new phase, which Microsoft is calling Skills Path.

Ryan Roslansky, the CEO of LinkedIn, explains why this next phase is critical and will change how skilled individuals are looked at by companies hiring to fill important tech-related positions.

"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," said Roslansky. "That's starting to change. People now better understand and articulate the skills they have and the skills they need. And businesses are looking not just at those familiar credentials but also at the skills that job seekers from often overlooked communities have to get the job done."

He added that the Skills Path initiative will change the approach to upskilling employees and help potential candidates and companies by identifying gaps in an individual’s skill set and providing resources for acquiring those skills; providing low-cost industry certifications; and connecting potential employers with newly upskilled individuals.

Ultimately, according to Roslansky, any change in the upskilling process will be precipitated by all vendors identifying skills with the same terminology. An example used by Roslansky was Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which has currently has multiple job titles that fit under that one umbrella.


The current pilot for Skills Path takes all of this and boils it down to making the connection between a company and potential employees, providing the right skills training for the specific positions available to potential employees and validating those skills through an assessment or certification. Once that work is complete, the potential employee earns a phone screening with that potential employer.

Of course, changing the language around upskilling, skillsets, job descriptions and certifications for these skills means an industry-wide effort is necessary to get everyone on the same page. That includes participation by schools, governments, and potential employers

Roslansky adds that Microsoft and LinkedIn's effort around upskilling employees is about “hiring for the candidate's future potential, not their past history."

He goes on to say, "For far too long, we have used degrees and experience to assess talent because we didn’t have anything better. We need alternative, flexible and always-accessible paths to well-paying jobs. Schools, governments, companies, individuals — we all need to help transition the hiring market from focusing solely on titles and companies, degrees and schools to also focusing on skills and abilities."

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Richard Hay

Senior Content Producer, IT Pro Today (Informa Tech)

I served for 29 plus years in the U.S. Navy and retired as a Master Chief Petty Officer in November 2011. My work background in the Navy was telecommunications related so my hobby of computers fit well with what I did for the Navy. I consider myself a tech geek and enjoy most things in that arena.

My first website – – came online in 1995. Back then I used GeoCities Web Hosting for it and is the result of the work I have done on that site since 1995.

In January 2010 my community contributions were recognized by Microsoft when I received my first Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award for the Windows Operating System. Since then I have been renewed as a Microsoft MVP each subsequent year since that initial award. I am also a member of the inaugural group of Windows Insider MVPs which began in 2016.

I previously hosted the Observed Tech PODCAST for 10 years and 317 episodes and now host a new podcast called Faith, Tech, and Space. 

I began contributing to Penton Technology websites in January 2015 and in April 2017 I was hired as the Senior Content Producer for Penton Technology which is now Informa Tech. In that role, I contribute to ITPro Today and cover operating systems, enterprise technology, and productivity.

Sign up for the ITPro Today newsletter
Stay on top of the IT universe with commentary, news analysis, how-to's, and tips delivered to your inbox daily.

You May Also Like