Atlanta named as ‘blueprint city’ for Microsoft’s digital skills drive

13th July 2020 Sarah Wray

Atlanta is the launch city for Microsoft’s new Accelerate programme, which aims to aid economic recovery from COVID-19 and close the digital divide through boosting skills.

This is the first city implementation of Microsoft’s recently announced global initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire new digital skills by the end of the year.

Jacky Wright, Chief Digital Officer and Corporate Vice President, Microsoft US, told Cities Today: “Accelerate: Atlanta is the blueprint for how this programme will be rolled out in cities across the US this year. It is the first of many city-focused digital skills and employment partnerships designed to upskill and increase employability.”

The programme will target support to the people hardest hit by job losses during COVID-19 and those whose work is most at risk of automation, including citizens on lower incomes, people with lower educational attainment, women and racial/ethnic minorities. The initiative will also support those who already have digital skills by helping them keep up with the advances in technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

In-demand skills

Accelerate: Atlanta brings together The Office of the Mayor of Atlanta and Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce with General AssemblyOpenClassrooms and TechBridge as learning partners. Accenture is a corporate partner and others are set to be announced soon.

Microsoft will invest US$1 million, via cash grants to non-profit organisations, to help deliver the skills programme in Atlanta. Globally, it plans to invest US$20 million, with a quarter of this funding earmarked for community-based non-profit organisations that are led by and serve communities of colour in the United States.

“Through Accelerate: Atlanta, Microsoft and its partners will help close the digital divide and ensure there is a place for everyone in our shared future,” said Atlanta Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms. “The road to economic recovery must begin with pathways to opportunity that are inclusionary and accessible to all. This is more than an initiative — this is an investment in underserved and underrepresented communities that will equip our residents with skills to compete in a modern workforce, while at the same time grow our middle class.”

Microsoft’s global initiative is centred around helping people qualify for what it has identified, via LinkedIn’s Economic Graph, as the ten most in-demand skillsets/jobs that do not require an advanced degree:  software developer; sales representative; project manager; IT administrator; customer service specialist; digital marketer; IT support/helpdesk; data analyst; financial analyst; and graphic designer.

This list can be tailored for specific skills and workforce needs in individual cities, such as Atlanta.

“Our partnerships provide a range of offerings of beginner to advanced digital skills and with formats from self-serve programmes and instructor-led offerings, to full dedicated cohorts with soft skills and job placement support,” said Wright. “We believe that aligning partnerships to serve the diversity of people and skill levels provides the most inclusive approach to empower everyone to achieve more.”

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