Microsoft launches scheme to help 500,000 into work

Microsoft has launched a scheme in the UK to help half a million people find work over the next three years.

The ‘Britain Works’ campaign will provide free IT skills training, and aims to help persuade the partners it trades with to employ people looking for jobs.

It will be led by Lord Digby Jones, previously director of the Confederation of British Industry and trade minister, and has received cross-party endorsement, as well as support from Jobcentre Plus, the CBI and the Work Foundation.

As part of the campaign, a new apprenticeship scheme will be launched, aiming to create more than 700 IT apprentices by September 2010, and more than 3,000 over the three year campaign.

This is alongside “targeted skills and employability training”, aided by the issuing of 450,000 training vouchers. The training will be online at Microsoft’s IT academies and with its partners, and will range from basic IT skills right up to how to configure networks.

There will also be a job matching service, called MSEmploy, which will match skills to vacancies in Microsoft’s partner network.

Last month, UK unemployment figures hit 2.4 million, with the CBI forecasting a potential future peak of three million. Separate research, conducted by ICM and commissioned by Microsoft, showed over 35 percent of adults are more worried about losing their job than they were six months ago.

Lord Digby Jones said the scheme was vital because “there are thousands of people who do not have the appropriate skills that businesses need in today’s IT led economy”.

“Businesses still need these people, and so a significant part of the this campaign will focus on making ‘Skills for Business’ training vouchers available to people who want to give themselves an extra chance when going for interviews,” he added.

Gordon Frazer, UK managing director at Microsoft, said the company “can’t wave a magic wand and create jobs for all” but that the campaign “is specifically designed to give people the opportunity to get the skills and support they need to change their lives themselves”.

The company’s scheme is similar to those launched by Morrisons and Royal Mail.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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