Late last month, Microsoft in partnership with Dalberg and Strathmore University launched the Digital Partnership Series at the Microsoft Policy Innovation Centre in the university.

Microsoft Dalberg Strathmore Digital Transformation series
(L-R) Dr Vincent Ogutu, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Planning & Development) Strathmore University, Amr Kamel, General Manager, West, East Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, Microsoft and Edwin Macharia, Partner and Africa Regional Director, Dalberg

The Digital Transformation Series is aimed at engaging various stakeholders through a series of conversations that will aid in deciphering misconceptions and questions that exist around tech policy.

Goal number 8 among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

In order to achieve this, there has to be a transformation in how students learn, how educators teach and aligning these skills with what employers want and Microsoft shares these priorities with country leaders.

Workforce development for economic growth

We are in what is called the fourth industrial revolution which involves such technologies as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT). This era is affecting every industry and there is a growing range of digital and business skills that are needed for jobs at every level.

Apparently 50% of today’s jobs require some technology skills and experts say that this will increase to 77% in less than a decade. By 2022, there will be 6.2 million job openings in cloud-based technologies.

This journey of lifelong learning is powered by three focus areas: Sparking an interest in science, tech and future ready skills, enabling every person to develop the skills business want and empowering everyone of all ages to continue their skills development.

Sparking an interest

Demand for science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) continues to grow but there is a shortage. This is also exacerbated by the lack of women in this fields, especially computer science, engineering and physics.

Microsoft has the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative which is set up to make computer science education and digital skills available to young people and especially girls and underrepresented groups.

YouthSpark also works with which was also co-founded by Microsoft that helps incorporate computer science education in schools. The Hour of Code campaign that we have seen being implemented in Kenya seeks to increase access to computer science by breaking stereotypes and inviting student to find out what they can achieve in an hour of coding.

Digital skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, problem solving and innovation are important to young people and Microsoft has a range of programs that help them do that. They have Microsoft Office 365 (productivity tools), Microsoft Azure (their cloud platform) and Minecraft (gaming and coding) that empower schools to perform the aforementioned digital skills which leads to employability.

Microsoft Programs To Enable 21st Century skills development

  • DevCamps which are two days of 300 level instructor led training to build solutions using Azure and Office 365 platforms.
  • Hacking STEM – This provides hands on experience with makerspace and Microsoft Excel.
  • Helping Veterans find tech careers
  • Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance – This aligns with institutions of learning allowing schools and educators use Microsoft Dynamics in their curriculum, exposing students to their latest customer relationship management and enterprise.
  • Microsoft Imagine – For advanced students, Microsoft Imagine provides an opportunity to connect with resources to elevate their skills using developer tools and products.
  • Microsoft Imagine Academy -Schools and educators gain a full curriculum for teaching technology courses that lead to industry recognized certifications in productivity and other software tools.
  • Microsoft Certifications – These are certifications that reflect today’s cloud focused jobs helping you get hired, get ahead and be productive.
  • Microsoft Innovation Centers -These are local hubs that provide resources and support for students and entrepreneurs  helping the acceleration and growth of a local ecosystem. They operate in over 100 locations worldwide.
  • Microsoft Professional Program – Includes a Data Science curriculum leveraging on an open Azure platform which teaches students functional and technical skills students need to be successful in careers like data scientist or or data analyst.
  • Microsoft Schools programs – These are schools where students work on how to transform education and integrate technology into their classroom.
  • Microsoft Student Partner Program – These partners are on campus student leaders with a passion for sharing technology with classmates.
  • Microsoft Virtual Academy – The MVA portal and curriculum provides free online training for developers, IT pros, data pros and students to get started or boost skills for workplace.
  • Minecraft: Education Edition – This program enables educators and learners collaborate and create learning opportunities in an immersive virtual space.
  • Microsoft Official courses On-Demand – A blend of video, text, hands on labs and knowledge checks to help build Microsoft technology skills.
  • STEM EDU apps – STEM related apps are available through the Windows 10 Store include the likes of LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 and Virtual Robotics Toolkit.