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January 26, 2017updated 27 Jan 2017 4:11pm

Microsoft silences Brexit exit fears with ground-breaking cloud & digital skills programme

Microsoft lays out ambitious plans to train 500,000 people in the UK to be cloud technology experts through its Cloud Skills initiative.

By James Nunns

Earlier this week there were suggestions that Microsoft may no longer be a 100% committed to the UK in the wake of Brexit, but now the company has totally shot that idea out of the water with the launch of a comprehensive national skills programme.

The idea behind the multi-year strategy is to boost digital skills and help to ensure that the UK remains at the “forefront of the global cloud-enabled economy.”

Microsoft has committed by 2020 to: train 30,000 UK public servants in the delivery of digital services to citizens, offer free digital literacy training to the entire UK population, create 30,000 new digital apprenticeship roles through the Microsoft Apprenticeships programme, and to train 500,000 people in the UK to be cloud technology experts through its Cloud Skills initiative.

The substantial commitment to the UK and the digital skills gap comes a short time after Amazon Web Services launched AWS re:Start, a portal that will offer IT skills training in the field of cloud computing and software development, in addition to job placements for young adults, military veterans and their spouses.

Microsoft has gone for a much larger scale than its market competitor and plans to train 30,000 UK public servants in a range of digital skills. The hope is that this will help the UK government and public sector organisations to deliver better, more efficient, more modern and transformative services to all people in the UK, the company said.

Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK CEO, said: “We believe a fourth industrial revolution is underway – one driven by the transformative power of cloud technologies.”

“In the wake of the EU referendum vote, the UK is looking at charting a new and different path to its future and Microsoft is committed, as it has been for more than thirty years, to helping the UK realise its full potential.

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“We believe maintaining the UK’s global competitiveness relies on a successful transition to a cloud-enabled economy.  At Microsoft, we aim to do our part by investing back into the UK digital economy to ensure people of all ages and backgrounds are equipped with the skills necessary to thrive into the future.”

In order to realise this, Microsoft said that it is committing to making available, to everyone in the UK, free online digital literacy training, and what the company realises is an ambitious scheme, to train 500,000 people in the UK in advanced cloud technology skills by 2020.

It’s not yet clear how exactly Microsoft plans to achieve this, or whether the training on advanced cloud technology skills will be based solely on Microsoft’s Azure cloud and its portfolio of offerings.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Microsoft UK CEO Cindy Rose.

However, the company did say that it has already worked with its network of 25,000 UK-based partner companies to deliver 11,000 digital apprentices, beating the original target of 4,000 set in 2012. It would seem then that the partner network will play a significant role in the training going forward.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond said: “This is further evidence that Britain is one of the best places in the world to do digital business. Microsoft’s commitment to training, technology and apprenticeships will ensure that we remain at the cutting edge of innovation.

“Our technology industry is fundamental to securing future economic growth and this government is committed to ensuring it continues to thrive. It’s a key part of our Industrial Strategy to back Britain for the long term, creating the conditions where business can flourish, driving growth for the whole nation.”

The company’s UK CEO said that while the digital apprenticeships element of the program is a “vital tool to address the skills shortage in the UK,” that it is not just about the numbers of people acquiring these skills, but also about attractive and supporting a diverse range of people.

“In particular, we will work hard to attract more women to these programmes. And, in order to do that, we encourage all organisations to do what they can to also provide and support as many diverse UK apprenticeships as possible.”

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