A mentored pathway to a career in the digital economy
A little over one year ago, Microsoft Ireland sat down with our long-standing NGO partner, Fastrack to IT (FIT), to discuss how we could support people who were experiencing unemployment due to the Covid-19 pandemic to upskill or reskill in order to secure new employment opportunities in the growing technology sector. At the time, Ireland was very much in the grip of Covid-19, with record unemployment levels and public health restrictions a significant part of everyday life.
Inspired by Microsoft’s mission to empower every person to achieve more, the concept of StepIn2Tech, a free digital skills training programme that would support the Government’s newly launched Pathways to Work strategy by providing 10,000 free training places to those who had lost their jobs and were looking to transfer to in-demand roles within the digital economy, was born.
Although designed primarily to support those who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, the programme was also designed to support people who had either recently left school or college or were mid-career and interested in developing their digital skills. With courses in areas ranging from productivity and coding through to infrastructure, cloud and design, StepIn2Tech was focused on empowering more people with the skills required to thrive in today’s digital economy.
One of the key strengths of StepIn2Tech is the support and flexibility that is integrated into the design of the programme. Understanding that everyone learns at different speeds and in different ways, the course was designed to be completed online at the learner’s own pace and with the guidance and support of FIT’s dedicated team of digi-chaperones.
In addition, Microsoft Ireland employees designed and are delivering a valuable StepIn2Tech mentoring programme that is providing participants with the soft skills required to maximise new employment opportunities. This includes one-to-one advice and guidance on interview techniques and CV writing.
Pictured are Peter Davitt, CEO of Fastrack to Information Technology (FIT); Sruthi Ravali, StepIn2Tech participant; James O’Connor, Microsoft Ireland Site Lead and Vice President of Microsoft International Operations; Maggie Zielinska, StepIn2Tech participant.
In recent weeks, we celebrated StepIn2Tech’s one year anniversary as well as reaching the milestone of engaging 6,000 learners in the programme, many of whom have subsequently continued their learning journey or secured employment. Furthermore, over 400 learners have completed the mentoring programme with 84 Microsoft employees volunteering almost 3,000 hours between them.
Having had the opportunity to speak to some of the graduates, I’ve been encouraged to hear them speak about the new-found confidence that the course has given them to explore new career pathways and seek out new job opportunities.
To take just one example, Liam Kidney was working as a photographer when the pandemic hit. He decided to reskill and completed a number of free Microsoft courses before coming across StepIn2Tech. He participated in both the StepIn2Tech starter courses and the mentoring programme and found them invaluable in preparing him for new career opportunities and interview processes. He cites the mentoring programme in particular as a significant contributor to helping him secure his current role in the tech support team at Athlone IT.
Liam is just one of many StepIn2Tech graduates whose careers were negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic and are now looking with greater confidence and excitement towards the future.
Future of StepIn2Tech
Recently, the World Economic Forum predicted that 90% of all jobs will require digital skills by 2030, a stark statistic, especially when you consider that 47% of people in Ireland still lack basic digital skills.
As digital technologies play an increasingly important role in today’s world, it’s crucial that dedicated learning and mentoring pathways, such as StepIn2Tech, are available to help people acquire the training and skills needed to access the technology-based jobs of today and tomorrow.
StepIn2Tech will continue to respond to this need in year two by working towards its goal of supporting 10,000 people to upskill or reskill.
This programme is just one of a number of education and training initiatives that Microsoft Ireland has developed to empower learners – irrespective of their age, background or experience – with the skills to participate fully in Ireland’s digital economy. By supporting thousands of people to acquire digital skills, we hope to live out our mission by empowering today’s workforce to develop the skills that are required for today’s and tomorrow’s in-demand jobs whilst also ensuring that, in the transition to a digital-first economy, no one is left behind.
To find out more about the #StepIn2Tech programme, visit: https://fit.ie/stepin2tech/