Ahead of Chancellor Phillip Hammond's visit to company HQ in Reading, Microsoft announced on Thursday what it calls a "comprehensive national skills programme" to boost digital skills and put the UK at the fore of the global cloud-enabled economy.
The programme is a multi-year strategy that will provide training in both everyday digital literacy, along with targeted efforts to equip the UK's public and private sectors with essential cloud technology skills. As a part of the programme, Microsoft has unveiled plans to train 30,000 UK public servants – completely free of charge – in a range of digital skills. The Redmond-based IT giant hopes that this will enable the UK government and public sector organisations to deliver better, more efficient, more modern and transformative services to Brits.
“We believe a fourth industrial revolution is underway – one driven by the transformative power of cloud technologies,” said Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK CEO. “In the wake of the EU referendum vote, the UK is looking at charting a new and different path to its future and Microsoft is committed, as it has been for more than thirty years, to helping the UK realise its full potential. We believe maintaining the UK’s global competitiveness relies on a successful transition to a cloud-enabled economy. At Microsoft, we aim to do our part by investing back into the UK digital economy to ensure people of all ages and backgrounds are equipped with the skills necessary to thrive into the future.”
This isn't some sort of pie-in-the-sky initiative that will be exclusive to people in certain areas however. Microsoft has said that it is committing to make free online digital literacy training available to everyone in the UK. This training will help to "equip them for the challenges and opportunities of the years ahead". The firm is also launching a Cloud Skills Initiative, which is looking to train 500,000 people in the UK in advanced cloud technology skills by 2020.
“This is further evidence that Britain is one of the best places in the world to do digital business. Microsoft’s commitment to training, technology and apprenticeships will ensure that we remain at the cutting edge of innovation," said Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond.
“Our technology industry is fundamental to securing future economic growth and this government is committed to ensuring it continues to thrive. It’s a key part of our Industrial Strategy to back Britain for the long term, creating the conditions where business can flourish, driving growth for the whole nation.”
Microsoft has already worked with its network of 25,000 UK-based partner companies to deliver 11,000 digital apprentiships – eclipsing the company's original tarket of 4,000 that it set in 2012. With this new initiative, Microsoft has pledged to achieve an additional 30,000 new digital apprenticeships in the UK by 2020. Importantly, the firm as said that it aims to ensure that higher proportions of women and minority groups are included and supported within these schemes.
“Microsoft sees digital apprenticeships as a vital tool to address the skills shortage in the UK and ensuring the UK’s competitive advantage,” Rose added. “This is not just about the numbers of people acquiring these skills so necessary for the future but also attracting and supporting a diverse range of people. In particular, we will work hard to attract more women to these programmes. And, in order to do that, we encourage all organisations to do what they can to also provide and support as many diverse UK apprenticeships as possible.”