Microsoft has launched a national programme to boost digital skills in the UK, with particular focus on cloud technologies and skilled apprenticeships.
"We believe a fourth industrial revolution is under way, one driven by the transformative power of cloud technologies," said Microsoft UK CEO, Cindy Rose, at Microsoft's UK headquarters in Reading today.
Microsoft's new initiative pledges to train 30,000 UK public servants for free, create 30,000 new digital apprenticeship roles and train 500,000 people in UK to be cloud technology experts, all by 2020.
These commitments will be made possible, Microsoft says, by the MS Apprenticeships Programme and the Cloud Skills initiative.
Microsoft's training initiative follows a similar announcement from cloud competitor Amazon Web Services, which pledged this month to target the digital skills gap in the UK with a free training programme named re:Start. Both vendors have been forging tighter partnerships recently with public sector organisations, and have set up data centres in the UK to serve regional customers.
Speaking from Microsoft's HQ, 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."
According to Microsoft, the drive for public servant skills should encourage the UK government to deliver its current and future services more efficiently.
The multi-year plan will also provide an open resource for everyone in the UK to improve digital skills through its free digital literacy training.
And with thoughts turning to Brexit, it seems that Microsoft is getting ready to tackle the potentially mammoth skills gap that could come with the UK leaving the EU.
"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 30 years, to helping the UK realise its full potential," said Rose.
In recent years, Microsoft has grown its network to 25,000 UK-based partner companies, generating more than 11,000 digital apprenticeships country-wide, beating its 2012 target of 4,000.
"Microsoft sees digital apprenticeships as a vital tool to address the skills shortage in the UK and ensuring the UK's competitive advantage. This is not just about the numbers of people acquiring these skills so necessary for the future but also attracting and supporting a diverse range of people," said Rose.
"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," she added.
With Microsoft announcing new software specifically designed for teachers and educators at the Bett Show in London this week, it seems Microsoft's focus on skills and education is only set to grow.
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