Lessons Nigeria can learn from Microsoft’s Global Skills Initiative

A little while ago, Microsoft announced the launch of a global skills initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire

Lessons Nigeria can learn from Microsoft’s Global Skills Initiative

A little while ago, Microsoft announced the launch of a global skills initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire digital skills by the end of the year. To accomplish this goal, the tech giant will be pulling resources from LinkedIn, GitHub and Microsoft with 3 areas in focus:

Data in identifying in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them.
Free access to content that helps people develop the required skills.
Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools for these people.
Microsoft also backs these efforts with $20 million in cash grants to help nonprofit organizations worldwide assist the people who need it most. $5 million of which will be provided in cash grants to community-based nonprofit organizations that are led by and serve communities of color in the United States.

Not only job seekers are set to benefit from this initiative, employees will also get the opportunity to skill and reskill through their careers.

Microsoft gets it right and Nigeria can do the same
Doing exactly the same may be far-reaching but as a country and what many will consider the tech hub of Africa, we too can pull resources together to help restore the economy through training in digital skills acquisition.

2020 is one of the most trying years a lot of us have experienced and that is largely due to the pandemic and its resulting effects on the global economy. In Nigeria, jobs have taken quite the hit and professionals have found themselves having to find alternative ways to earn a living.

Truth is, Nigeria has almost always had an unemployment problem but the already widening gap between the employed, unemployed and underemployed is even more evident during this global crisis. The core of the problem falls on the lagging educational system and lack of learning opportunities.

As expected, those who have to endure the effects of the economic recession are the minorities- those with inadequate education, disabled people, women, inexperienced workers etc.

One of the most feasible ways to fully recover is through the development of new skills in line with the jobs available and the new ones being created on a daily. According to Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics, the Nigerian unemployment rate has climbed to 27.1% (up from 23.1% in Q3 2018) and the underemployment rate has increased to 28.6%.

To put in perspective, 21.7 million of a labour force of 80.2 million are unemployed, the most affected of this statistic are young Nigerians between ages 25 and 34 at 30.7%.

Should we sit around waiting for the government to enforce economic policies that drive growth and create jobs or should we do something about it?
The Nigerian Educational System is allocated 20% less than UNESCO’s benchmark for funding of education of the national budget, This Day reported. This is a major factor in the issues that eventually affect the labour force. At this point, private firms can then step to the plate and make changes as in the end, a flourishing economy means more business for them.

The need for digital transformation is critical, if nothing else, the pandemic has proven that we need to reskill and upskill to accelerate economic growth. Waiting around on policymakers simply will not cut it. We see that COVID-19 has brought about jobs that rely heavily on digital skills; even as society reopens we may find that for a minute, some workers resume in physical work-spaces while others keep working from home or remotely.

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The digitization of the economy is happening and it has happened fast right before our eyes. We are fortunate to be able to say we knew when it all changed. Companies and all sorts of entities not only in Nigeria have adjusted to these changes and without a doubt digital transformation will touch almost every part of the global workforce.

Reskilling and upskilling in Nigeria is possible
The challenge in Nigeria is less about if there are no efforts being put into training people for jobs but more about the existing training reaching the people who need it the most.

However, digital upskilling and reskilling like Microsoft’s offer to a lucky 25 million people is what could generously shut that gap. It will offer the chance to give equal opportunities to individuals who require the skills for today’s’ on-demand jobs. The rise of the COVID-19 helped accelerate this process and we can see many Nigerians evolving digitally in more ways than one because of this.

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NetPlusDotCom, a Lagos based fintech offering tech solutions to local businesses began efforts in expediting the digital transformation process with a series of initiatives and products. The company organizes a free monthly webinar that teaches business owners and individuals in different fields, the importance of acquiring digital skills in order to stay relevant and productive. The company has also introduced a few products like Church by NetPlusPay that makes online payments much more seamless for its user and Business Corner which offers businesses and individuals the opportunity to earn money online with a personalized domain through their network.

More internationally, TikTok according to Culture Custodian has launched its SkillsUP campaign that will drive the local community with tips on useful digital skills. The short-form mobile video platform has organized a series of sessions specifically designed to offer training to the new generation in order to advance career development.

This Day reported also that even the British Government through its Prosperity Fund’s Digital Access Programmes has pledged to support and promote inclusive and sustainable digital access to unserved and underserved communities in Nigeria. In collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Digital Access Programme hosted the first Nigeria Technical Conference on the Right of Way (ROW) to further aggregate views from key stakeholders towards the advancement of policy and regulatory reforms on ROW and issuance of planning permits for mast and towers.

Hopefully, the policymakers grab a hold of this rather rare and extremely necessary opportunity to further support the digital transformation process in the country, in view of the fact that connectivity still poses a significant problem in Nigeria.

Connectivity and broadband reach- this has to be the utmost setback in the transition to digital. In the end, a million extensive training programs made available will be worth absolutely nothing if the gap created by broadband and internet reach is not breached.

Needless to say, even though a bit slow in the race, there has and still is a lot of effort being put in by Nigerians for Nigerians to facilitate upskilling and reskilling but the limitations are seemingly unsurmountable. However, we can be hopeful with initiatives like the NCC’s 70% Broadband Penetration Plan and ROW with the British Government among others.

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