- Global unemployment could reach a quarter of a billion in 2020.
- Tech giants are leading the way in helping people reskill for the future.
- Extensive new - and largely free - initiatives are under way to transform the global workforce.
The world’s tech giants are stepping up to reskill workers for the new economy.
While some sectors are facing heavy unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has thrived.
Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook all saw an increase in revenue in the first six months of 2020 year-on-year.
But, the International Labour Organization has estimated total working-hour losses in the second quarter of 2020, relative to the fourth quarter of 2019, are now 17.3%, or 495 million full-time equivalent jobs.
And the tech giants wants to help.
The need to reskill
Even before the pandemic, businesses were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or anticipating them within the next few years.
Automation and artificial intelligence (AI), two key drivers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, meant that, in 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers or 14% of the global workforce would need to learn new skills.
The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated this change for many. New skills are needed to help businesses function and thrive in an increasingly virtual world. With Microsoft estimating that global unemployment in 2020 may reach a quarter of a billion people, the need is urgent.
Training will need to be largely digital and help is needed from those who have both the ability to educate and the infrastructure to make training available globally: the tech giants.
Here are just some of their initiatives.
Microsoft has led the way, launching a global skills initiative that aims to teach digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of 2020.
The company will use its resources within LinkedIn, GitHub and Microsoft platforms, as well as combine new and existing resources.
Three areas have been targeted:
- Using data to identify in-demand jobs and to assess the skills needed for these jobs
- Free access to training and content so that people can learn the necessary skills
- Free job-seeking tools and low-cost certifications to help people apply for jobs
Those seeking training will have free access to content in LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and the GitHub Learning Lab.
Microsoft has also given $20 million in grants to community-based non-profit organizations led by and serving communities of colour in the US.
Google has partnered with online learning providers, including Coursera, for its Grow with Google initiative, providing training that is free for the most part and approved by industry experts, top entrepreneurs and leading global employers.
It promises to “aid the economic recovery through our technology, tools and training; so that local businesses, communities and people can grow stronger, faster and more resilient”.
The training covers areas such as exporting and expanding a business internationally, online strategy, digital marketing and exploring strategies for digitalization.
A network of peers is also offered, giving SME leaders a support network to help them find advice and practical solutions to challenges.
Google also has a specific Digital Skills for Africa offering.
Apple was looking to the future before the 2020 crisis, with its Everyone Can Code initiative, which provides resources for teachers, a student guide and coding materials.
Thousands of schools worldwide have benefited from the curriculum, learning how to develop ideas and solve problems.
In the summer of 2020, the tech giant increased its support of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), adding 10 new regional coding centres, which will serve as technology hubs for the campuses and broader communities.
It also launched a $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative to challenge systemic barriers to opportunity for communities of colour by advancing education, economic equality and criminal justice reform efforts.
What is the World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit?
The World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit brings together leaders from business, government, civil society, media and the broader public to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.
The four-day virtual event, being held on 20-23 October 2020, comes as the world seeks a way out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus crisis has further disrupted the world of work after years of growing income inequality, concerns about tech-driven job displacement, and rising societal discord.
The Summit will develop new frameworks, shape innovative solutions and accelerate action on four thematic pillars: Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation; Work, Wages and Job Creation; Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning; and Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.
The World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit is looking at how world leaders in both business and government can work towards more inclusive, fair and sustainable economies, societies and workplaces.
It’s focusing on four key themes:
- Economic growth, revival and transformation
- Work, wages and job creation
- Education, skills and lifelong learning
- Equity, inclusion and social justice
The role of the tech giants will be in facilitating education and skills for the future.
As Microsoft President Brad Smith says: “Together we can better serve people, filling jobs and creating opportunities for individuals around the world.”