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Digital skills

Microsoft and Catch22 extend partnership to boost AI skills for job seekers

A woman sits on her sofa working on her laptop. She smiles widely at the screen.

Catch22 will expand its successful Digital Edge and Digital Lift programmes to embrace the AI revolution – as the continuation of its social impact partnership with Microsoft is announced today.

The partnership forms part of Microsoft’s plans to train 1 million people in the UK with AI skills by 2025. It will see Catch22 deliver:

  • A 4-week pre-employability training programme for those facing barriers to work who are keen to enter the tech or digital sectors. The course will now include essential skills in Generative AI, as well as providing insight into the sort of roles that will use AI regularly, and what key skills will be needed​. Participants will be supported by their Career Coaches to complete the Microsoft Career Essentials in Generative AI certification.
  • An expanded ‘Digital Lift’ programme, teaching digital skills for individuals going into non-tech focused roles – which will now include short courses on AI skills for life.
  • ‘Train the trainer’ practitioner training to enable frontline professionals to teach Digital Lift AI modules – and then roll them out across Catch22’s network of charities, schools, youth organisations, job centre plus and frontline workers.

Naomi Hulston, CEO of Catch22, said:

“The application of AI across all sorts of aspects of our lives is hugely exciting and filled with potential. But for some people, this potential is tinged with fear; a fear of the unknown, a fear of being left behind and a fear of not having the right skills to be part of the AI revolution.

“We’re proud to be a partner in Microsoft’s Get on AI programme delivery through our Digital Edge AI programme. Our aim is to equip 15,000 people of all ages facing barriers to work with the skills and confidence to use AI effectively through workshops and our proven ‘train the trainer’ model. By empowering people to embrace this new wave of technology, we’ll make sure nobody – whatever their age, background or challenges – is left behind.”

The extension of the partnership is announced as Microsoft publishes research that finds more than half of UK business leaders (52%) believe the UK is running out of time to become an AI superpower with skills shortages cited as a key constraint.

The research, conducted by YouGov, also reveals that more than half (54%) of UK business leaders are concerned they do not have the necessary skills across their workforce to take advantage of the AI opportunity. Other findings include:

  • Only a quarter (25%) of UK organisations do not believe that their organisation has plans in place to recruit the talent needed to successfully implement AI across their organisations.
  • Just 26% of leaders have completed training to improve their understanding about how to use AI in their job.

To address these challenges and help the UK to succeed in the era of AI, Microsoft is expanding its UK skilling programme, Get On, to help 1 million people acquire the skills that will enable them to build careers in the new AI-enabled economy.

Clare Barclay, CEO of Microsoft UK, said:

“The UK has a very real opportunity to be a leader in the era of AI, but as our research shows, there are barriers stopping the UK turning its ambition into action.

“Every job will soon be supported by AI and we need innovative people, with the right skills, to fill those jobs. That’s why Microsoft is expanding its skills commitment. By 2025 we will support one million people to gain the AI skills they need to start, or move into, a career in technology. And in doing so, we will open up the opportunities of AI to diverse talent across the UK.”

The expansion of the Get On programme builds on Microsoft’s five-year skills initiative that has seen more than 1.1 million people participate in digital skills training and enabled more than 30,000 people to build careers in technology. Microsoft’s new suite of AI skilling resources will help the UK take advantage of the generative AI wave sweeping industry and business. With 45% of job seekers saying they are interested in learning more about AI and how to use it more effectively, the programme will help candidates, non-profits and employers become familiar and fluent in AI so that they can build with the new technology and achieve professional accreditation and certification throughout their journey.

The expansion of Microsoft’s AI resources will focus on three key areas:

  • Building AI fluency: Enabling workers, job seekers and AI-curious self-learners to build AI knowledge and understanding including responsible deployment. New non-profit partnerships with Generation, Catch22 and The Prince’s Trust to support individuals who face greater barriers to employment opportunity.
  • Developing AI technical skills: Enable those with AI knowledge to develop their technical skills and achieve certification through free, online self-learn training on modules including machine learning and data analysis.
  • Supporting AI business transformation: Support business leaders to manage AI transformation and worker upskilling across new AI products and services in order to take advantage of growth opportunities