Like its predecessor, 2021 is shaping up to be a year of change, disruption and adaptation. Many leaders are continuing to seek new ways to drive innovation and agility in their organisations. They also know that digital solutions offer the best chance to recover and make the most of opportunities in the new world of work.

The role of technology is growing across all sectors. Therefore, it’s no surprise to find a corresponding surge in demand for technical skills. According to TechNation, tech jobs now make up 10 percent of all job vacancies. Despite this, many organisations often struggle to find candidates with the experience and knowledge they need. This is especially the case for advanced and specialist skills, such as data analytics, network security and AI.

The shortage of suitably qualified professionals for existing roles – let alone the estimated three million new UK tech jobs by 2025 – poses a major challenge to our economic recovery, productivity and growth.

Addressing the skills gap and creating new learners

a person standing in front of a computerTo help tackle the widening digital talent gap, Microsoft launched Get On 2021 last October. Our five-year commitment focusses on driving technology adoption and increasing access to tech skills. As a result, we aim to empower more learners and boost the UK’s productivity and competitiveness.

Our specific commitment is to help 1.5 million people build tech careers across all industries, by empowering them with in-demand skills. We are also focussed on connecting 300,000 people to tech job opportunities through programmes such as the Microsoft Apprenticeship Network.

Living the life of a learner

Amelia sits at her desk, smiling at the camera. On the computer monitor is Microsoft Learn

At the heart of our Get On 2021 commitment is a belief that every person in the UK – whatever their background, life stage or career history – should have access to the skills, knowledge and opportunity needed to achieve more in a tech-enabled world.

It’s this conviction that underpins our new campaign to widen access to learning opportunities and empower more people to build in-demand skills.

We wanted to better understand the challenges and opportunities faced by learners across the UK. So, we recently set out to learn ourselves from people who are building tech careers. In our new campaign, #OwnYourStory, we share the tales of Amelia, Enrique and Poornima; three individuals with experiences that will resonate with learners and provide food for thought for leaders seeking to empower their workforce.

Enrique is at the very start of his tech career, having completed a digital apprenticeship after his GCSEs. Amelia has switched to a new career as a data analyst apprentice after working in care. And Poornima is a developer with a clear passion for lifelong learning and professional development. All three are in 10 of the most in-demand roles today.

Owning their story

Poornima stands in front of her desk, smiling. On the desk are some books and an open laptop.

Enrique, Poornima and Amelia have taken bold steps to start new chapters at different stages of their lives. They share a united passion for technology and, in reimagining themselves, they offer inspiration to others who may seek to unlock their own potential.

They also remind me why it is so important for organisations to think differently about attracting and developing diverse talent. It’s through a digital apprenticeships that Amelia and Enrique are unlocking their potential in a technology career. Additionally, Poornima reflects that she is often underestimated as a woman in her industry. Their personal experiences will resonate with many and may provide further inspiration for leaders on why it’s important to place diversity and inclusion at the heart of talent planning as well as sourcing talent from non-traditional pools such as through apprenticeships.

Above all, it’s hard not to feel inspired by Enrique, Poornima and Amelia’s zest for learning and development. They show that learning is a journey, not a destination. They show the potential that can be achieved with the right skills, knowledge and opportunity. It’s their enthusiasm and personal ambition that I see every day amongst other learners. And it’s a constant reminder of what can be achieved when we invest in learning and development.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll share more thoughts on how we can close the digital talent gap and empower more learners across the UK to own their story. In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to view Enrique, Poornima and Amelia’s stories. I would love to hear how learning has empowered you, or your team, in the comments below.

Find out more

Meet our learners: Discover how digital skills helped unlock their potential and how you can get started

Discover the report: Unlocking the UK’s Potential with Digital Skills

About the author

A man wearing glasses posing for the cameraSimon is passionate about unlocking the potential in every person and organisation and has been with Microsoft since 1999. In his role as UK Chief Learning Officer, Simon is responsible for leading the learning culture and skilling strategy in the UK and driving the execution for customers, partners, employees, and future generation skilling. Prior to this, Simon has held several senior positions at Microsoft, leading several businesses across the UK and EMEA.