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Empowering Refugees to bridge the skills gap

Anke Den Ouden

Anke Den Ouden

CEO

Leestijd, 3 min.

Today marks World Refugee Day, a moment not only to reflect on the ongoing global refugee crisis but also to recognize and honor the immense potential within people with a refugee background as they integrate into Dutch society. As someone deeply committed to creating opportunities for all, I am inspired by the untapped talent and resilience that refugees possess. At Microsoft, we are dedicated to help change this narrative and empowering people with a refugee background through different initiatives.

Bridging the gap by unlocking untapped talent

Integration into society poses significant challenges, with employment being a crucial factor. Unfortunately, the journey to finding employment is often fraught with obstacles through regulations, the non-recognition of foreign diplomas, employer bias, negative public perception and networking challenges. Consequently, many refugees, despite their eagerness and potential, struggle to find employment. This results in an immense reservoir of talent remaining untapped, despite the Dutch labor market’s urgent need for diverse skills, particularly in IT. With job vacancies increasing and an estimated need for 85 million tech specialists in Europe by 2030, the demand for skilled professionals in AI and IT is pressing. Recognizing this, Microsoft has launched different initiatives to empower individuals with refugee backgrounds with essential skills and connect them with employers, bridging the gap between talent and opportunity.

Through these initiatives, Microsoft is not only committed to helping people with a refugee background in securing employment but also strives to make its best effort in contributing to Dutch society by mitigating labor shortages. A recent study commissioned by Microsoft in collaboration with other employers and civil society organizations, ‘Ruimere werkmogelijkheden asielzoekers’, revealed that a more accessible job market for asylum seekers could generate nearly two billion in prosperity for Dutch society over ten years. A true win-win scenario.

An example of such an initiative is our Microsoft Azure Academy, a program we designed in collaboration with Refugee Talent Hub to empower refugees to become Data- or Cloud specialists and kickstart a tech career in the Netherlands. Wilma Roozenboom, Director of Refugee Talent Hub: “We are very happy with Microsoft’s support and dedication. This is much needed because finding employment is – unfortunately – still challenging for many newcomers. Having an organization like Microsoft advocate for these talents and inspire its partner network to do the same definitely helps. This is also in the interest of employers: the Netherlands is in need of IT talent, and with initiatives like the Microsoft Azure Academy, we collectively help bridge this skills gap.”

As a spin-off from our Microsoft Azure Academy, we also organized the AI Fundamentals training for 60 refugee talents to support even more refugees. These trainings equip the refugee talents with essential AI skills, enhancing their CVs with relevant industry certifications upon completion and improving their chances of securing sustainable employment. We also offer this AI training to refugees participating in Accenture’s Talent Track program. An opportunity that’s been important for Abdurrahman Ghallab, a participant from Yemen: “Participating in the program has been transformative. It’s incredible to wake up and tell my children I’m heading into another day full of learning and having the opportunity to contribute to society. Plus, I feel so much more comfortable now talking to recruiters if I need to in the future.”

The partnership with Accenture aligns with our mission to inspire and motivate the entire ecosystem to engage more with individuals with refugee backgrounds. Laura van den Hurk, Corporate Citizenship Lead at Accenture, highlighted the significance of such initiatives: “We are proud of the collaboration between Refugee Talent Hub and Microsoft where we skill newcomers on AI as part of Accenture’s Talent Track program. This way we enable opportunities for growth and to restart their careers in the Netherlands.”

Win-Win scenario

As we honor World Refugee Day, let’s recognize the potential within individuals with refugee backgrounds. At Microsoft, we advocate for equal opportunities for all, irrespective of their circumstances. Proudly, we contribute to empowering individuals from refugee backgrounds, addressing critical workforce shortages, and promoting inclusivity. Together, we strive towards a world where every individual, regardless of their background, can thrive and contribute to a brighter future.

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