Erik Engblom has lived in Eskilstuna, Sweden, his entire 28 years, not counting time spent in Karlskrona getting a master’s degree in industrial engineering. After graduating, he moved back home to take a job as a technical consultant at Alten, a consulting business.
He was happy. Then in March 2020, COVID-19 hit Sweden, hard. Engblom’s job was terminated.
“It was the biggest impact on my life,” he says. But he didn’t panic. Rather than frantically grabbing the first job he could find, Engblom took stock of the situation-andhimself. “I asked myself, what can I do to position myself better in the work market?” he says. Equally importantly, he researched the skills that would be in demand in the post-COVID world. He very soon identified information technology as the field of the future.
After a storm of searching on YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other sites, Engblom found an ad for a Microsoft Power BI training program. Part of an initiative by Microsoft, LinkedIn, and GitHub to help 25 million people worldwide gain the skills to succeed in the increasingly digital world of work, the three-to-six-month program retrained people like Engblom in Power BI, Azure Cloud, datacenter administration, and other digital skills.
After completing the Microsoft training, Engblom accepted a job as a consultant at Capgemini, a global IT consulting firm, where he uses everything he learned in his course, he says. “That class was the second biggest impact on my life,” he says.
He admits to being nervous when he started his job in the so-called real world. He was concerned that the training might not have gone deep enough to enable him to perform the actual work required. “So it was a really great feeling to sit in my first meeting and understand everything they were talking about,” Engblom says. “The class had covered it all.”
Widespread economic disruption with COVID-19
The pandemic shocked Europe’s economy-andthe repercussions are ongoing. The European Centre for the Development of Vocation Training (Cedefop) predicts that almost seven million jobs in the European Union (EU) will be lost or not created by 2022 because of COVID-19.
Some occupations were hit harder than others, of course. Suffering the most were those working in the hospitality and travel industries; farmers and fishers; and craftspeople. On the other hand, personal care, health, and teaching professionals were burdened with excess work in hospitals, clinics, and remote teaching. Professionals in the arts and performance were also dramatically affected.
But the standout occupations that actually did well during the pandemic were those in the information and communications sectors. Indeed, accelerated investments in digital and sustainability could add up to 5.7 million new jobs across Europe by 2030, according to a new research report from Accenture.
Recognizing the need for digital reskilling, Microsoft jumpstarted its first jobs program in June 2020, and by March 2021 had surpassed its original goal by reaching more than 30 million people globally. Almost 9 million of them were in Europe. And many of them, like Engblom, who is at heart a classical guitarist, have strong creative backgrounds. This is important because artistic talent combined with IT skills has been shown to power innovation, creating the new technologies that are needed to solve some of the massive problems our society is facing.
Retraining programs like this are absolutely necessary, says Alicia Miguez, a graduate of a Microsoft reskilling program in Madrid, who shifted from waitressing to cloud specialist in just three and half months. “Digital skills are essential today, and programs are needed to help people in a situation as difficult as the pandemic.”
Motivated by the widespread interest, Microsoft then announced an extension to the program, designed to help 250,000 companies make skills-based hires in 2021, boosting understanding of skills among both employers and governments.
From café work to cloud technician
Alicia Miguez is a people person. Although she otherwise wasn’t particularly fond of working in a Madrid café after finishing school-itrequired long hours on her feet-shegreatly enjoyed interacting with customers. “I liked making them happy by giving them what they wanted,” she says. “But the work was physically exhausting.”
Indeed, just prior to the café being closed down due to the pandemic, Miguez had to go on medical leave because of injuries to her hands. Stuck at home and bored, Miguez was surfing through Instagram when an ad about a Microsoft tech retraining program caught her eye.
“It was one of those long afternoons when we were shut in, and I thought ‘why not?'” says Miguez. She was especially attracted by the fact that the ad mentioned the possibility of a job after completing the course. Miguez did not want to go back to café work, and was looking for a new direction in life. “I thought, ‘what the heck, I have nothing to lose! I’ll apply,'” she says now. When she got the call accepting her to the program, she was ecstatic.
At 29 years old, Miguez has a GCE (General Certificate of Education) in social sciences, and completed two years of university in social work when she had to drop out for economic reasons. Her dream job when younger was to be a teacher. But she’s always been comfortable with technology.
“I remember the first day of class as if it were yesterday; five teachers each gave specialized presentations, and stressed that this was an opportunity that we should not waste,” she says. Not only did she learn a lot, but it was fun interacting with her classmates, many of whom are now friends.
After completing the course, Microsoft placed Miguez in a job as an Azure Cloud support technician at Inetum España S.A., the IT arm for the Spanish department store chain el Corte Ingles. She’s been there almost a year, and loves it.
“I enjoy every part of my jobs-whateverthey want me to do, find out this, or research that, or speak with this person or that person-Iam delighted to do. I feel really happy.”
Microsoft Corporation published this content on 28 September 2021 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 28 September 2021 14:21:04 UTC.