- In an effort to bolster the city’s economy and revitalize its workforce, Microsoft is launching a TechSpark hub in Jackson, Mississippi. This initiative builds on the foundation of the Technology, Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, which helps local high schools build out computer science programs. Along with high schoolers, Microsoft said it will be allocating resources to Jackson State University students and local tech entrepreneurs.
- Microsoft said it plans to develop broadband capability and computer science education in the community and share better job connections. The latter nods to data from Mississippi’s Economic Council, wherein respondents said the lack of qualified workers is hampering business progress.
- “We see these challenges across the U.S., but we’re convinced that launching a one-size-fits-all solution without regional input is the wrong response,” said Kate Behncken, vice president and lead of Microsoft Philanthropies.
In many ways, Microsoft’s foray into Jackson is par for the course: The software company has flexed its reach from southern Virginia to northeast Wisconsin, from Fargo, North Dakota, to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the Pacific Northwest. Further, Microsoft has raised a TechSpark program in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Microsoft seeks to recruit and train at least 100 students through Jackson State’s Cybersecurity Readiness program. Additionally collaborating with gener8tor and Innovate Mississippi, the software company is offering career coaching and workplace skills training to unemployed and marginalized folks. And finally, along with a 12-week intensive for qualifying startups, Microsoft said it’s building a makerspace in Jackson’s Tech District to host inventors and learners in summer 2022.
But looking beyond TechSpark, this initiative reflects Microsoft’s emerging modus operandi as a company that seeks equity through L&D.
The company continues to make noise in the equitable inclusion lane of tech. Earlier this year, Microsoft expanded its accessible hiring initiatives through the Neurodiversity Career Connector. Through this networking program, the company joined fellow members of the Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable to connect people with disabilities to opportunities in tech.
On top of the NDCC, Microsoft has its own Neurodiversity Hiring Program. Candidates participate in a skills assessment, attend a hiring event so they can assess their fit, develop skills and meet program alums.
Tech companies continue to make moves to champion diversity, equity and inclusion through STEM upskilling. IBM leadership has vocally and consistently pushed employer-led learning programs. JPMorgan Chase’s five-year plan to nurture community college students and talent with non-traditional pathways is underway. Amazon, through its Career Choice program, and Intel, with the help of Dell Technologies, offer their talent free access to education and L&D programs with a tech focus.
Human resources teams wondering whether to buttress their company’s learning efforts, take note: in a 2021 Monster survey, more than half of respondents were worried about their future due to a possible skills gap. What’s more, 45% of respondents said they’d be more likely to stay with their current employer if they offered upskilling opportunities.