Microsoft details digital skills initiative in South Africa

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Microsoft South Africa has announced the details of its local skills development programme. The initiative aims to combat unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, Microsoft announced a global initiative to create jobs, including a range of free courses for high-demand jobs. The initiative aims to empower 25 million people worldwide with digital skills by the end of the year.

“Expanded access to digital skills is an important step in accelerating economic recovery, especially for the people hardest hit by job losses,” says Siya Madyibi, Legal and Corporate Affairs Director at Microsoft South Africa.

“There was already a shift to digital technologies and increasing demand for people with digital skills even before the pandemic struck, but it has accelerated the need for these types of skills.”

The South African context

Sifiso Skenjana, Chief Economist at IQbusiness, was the keynote speaker at Microsoft South Africa’s media briefing.

He noted that the South African context poses a few challenges in terms of employment. These include underemployment, brain drain in smaller communities, wage inequality, and the lack of wage growth.

Since the global initiative launch, LinkedIn’s free courses have been available for users in South Africa.

But what about South Africa’s millions of residents who don’t have access to broadband internet or can’t afford the data costs?

Microsoft partners with Afrika Tikkun

Microsoft South Africa has partnered with organisations like Afrika Tikkun to help those living in remote or underprivileged areas access the support they need. This includes rolling out Wi-Fi to these areas to help provide connectivity to digital resources.

Onyinye Nwaneri, CEO at Afrika Tikkun, noted the challenges of the local context. These include high youth unemployment and the digital divide.

Furthermore, many young people don’t have access to technology or the infrastructure needed to support using this technology.

As part of its digital skills programme, Microsoft has provided the non-profit with a grant to support its work.

With the grant, Afrika Tikkun can help unemployed people identify the best learning paths to follow based on their existing skillset and the most in-demand skills and jobs in South Africa.

The organisation also helps underprivileged South Africans through skills development programmes. It also helps them meet their nutrition, health, and social needs.

“Our goal is to combine the best in technology with stronger partnerships with organisations like LinkedIn, GitHub, and Afrika Tikkun to help empower people to develop the skills needed to secure a new job,” Madyibi says.

Microsoft has also partnered with local companies to make training labs available to local jobseekers. These partners have also agreed to help co-fund Microsoft certifications and share the programme on their social media channels.

Reduced Microsoft Certification prices

Part of Microsoft’s skills initiative, including providing free learning, is to also provide reduced costs for certifications.

According to Microsoft South Africa, while Microsoft Certification exams usually cost $100, the company has reduced the price to $15 for some users. Those who can self-attest that their employment has been affected by the pandemic will receive the discount.

“This represents a large discount on the price of exams that typically cost more than $100,” the company says.

Megan Ellis, Editor
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