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.
"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."