MICROSOFT CORP. has partnered with JA Asia Pacific and CloudSwyft to provide a skilling program for young jobseekers in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Of the targeted 60,000 participants this year, 4,000 will be from the Philippines.  

“COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards a digital economy, and organizations here in the Philippines are requiring greater digital skills from talents so that their businesses can adapt and thrive in this new environment,” said Andres Ortola, Microsoft Philippines general manager, in a recent statement. 

The new program is an extension of Microsoft’s broader Global Skilling Initiative, which reported last month that over 150,000 Filipinos had gained digital skills via its online courses, to be offered until the end of 2021. 

Mr. Ortola added that “reskilling, cross-skilling, and upskilling” young adults should help them cope with job losses. The partners in this program are JA Asia Pacific, a youth-serving non-profit organization, and CloudSwyft, a cloud-based learning platform provider.  

The Department of Education (DepEd) will also assist in implementation. “There are a lot of Filipinos, particularly from underprivileged communities, who are eager to learn so that they can have better lives and contribute to Philippine society,” said Zaldy H. Reliquias, division curriculum chief of DepEd. 

As for the effects of skilling programs on jobseekers’ chances, last month’s Future in Talent report by professional networking site LinkedIn revealed that Philippine employers now value technical skills more highly than experience. 

Webinars offered in the program will include career path discussion, data science courses, and lab assessments by CloudSwyft. “In addition to providing crucial digital skills training to communities in the Philippines, our skilling program will be invaluable in supporting business and economic growth,” said Dann Angelo De Guzman, CloudSwyft founder and chief executive officer. 

One indicator of such growth is the labor force participation rate (LFPR), which rose to 65% in March from 63.5% in February, according to the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). This means a total of 48.77 million Filipinos over 15 years old are either employed or looking for work, a record-high since the 65.2% LFPR in 2014. 

“We understand the hurdles people are currently facing when it comes to employment and employability,” said Maziar Sabet, JA Asia Pacific president and chief executive officer. “With 2021 signifying a fresh start for many, we hope to provide more avenues for those who need support through skills training and mentorship.” 

Added Mr. Ortola of Microsoft: “We will continue to partner with the government, NGOs, and the private sector and increase our efforts to ensure that more Filipinos are equipped with the necessary digital skills for the present and the future.” — Brontë H. Lacsamana