Essential Skills for Ireland’s Digital Leadership

James O’Connorchief executive of Microsoft, describes the company’s initiatives to help Irish people develop vital digital skills

Two years ago, we could not have foreseen the critical role that digital technologies would play in enabling our economy and society to adapt and transform in the midst of the pandemic.

They have helped protect lives and livelihoods, helped people stay connected, enabled much of the workforce to successfully work remotely and students to learn from home, supported continuity activities and, in many cases, enabled organizations to pivot and grow.

I have seen many changes since I joined Microsoft in 1993. However, the rapid evolution in the way we live, work and do business is unprecedented.

Digital steering

I believe now is the time to harness this progress and experience as we work together to position Ireland as Europe’s digital leader by 2025. Accelerating Ireland’s journey to a digital future will strengthen our sustainable recovery while enabling new and better services for citizens, increasing competitiveness, boosting productivity and, significantly, creating the jobs of the future.

A continued focus on cloud services, digital health solutions and cybersecurity presents immediate opportunities for Ireland to cement its digital leadership credentials.

Importance of the skills sought Digital technology alone is not enough to achieve our ambitions. To become a true digital leader, we need to ensure that our people have the skills that are not only in demand in today’s digital world, but will be vital in the Irish economy of 2025 and beyond.

From digital marketing to cloud services, from CX (customer experience) to engineering, the jobs of the future are already here. According to the World Economic Forum, 90% of all jobs in 2030 will require digital skills.

Despite advances in technology adoption, there is a persistent digital skills gap that needs to be addressed. Today, only 54% of our population has basic digital skills. That’s why Microsoft Ireland has a particular focus on helping people gain the digital skills they need to participate fully in society, while creating the next generation of digital leaders.

life paths

Since Microsoft became one of the first multinationals to invest in Ireland 37 years ago, we have sought to encourage and empower people of all backgrounds and levels of experience to acquire the skills necessary to participate in equally to a digital economy.

From our 12-year active involvement in the Springboard skills development initiative to our own programs supported by this initiative, such as Microsoft Ireland’s Pathways For Life, we are committed to providing people who lack basic digital skills with the supports they so badly need to develop these new skills.

We also know that the future of business transformation and innovation lies in having qualified talent capable of unleashing the full potential of cloud and other digital technologies. That’s why we help the industry not only improve the skills of its workforce, but also foster a culture of continuous learning that will allow it to be competitive and innovate.

In December, we partnered with Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim Education and Training Board to launch the Microsoft Cloud Traineeship program to equip people with the in-demand skills needed to move into cloud-based roles.

This follows the rollout of the Microsoft Skill Forward webinar program which provides upskilling opportunities in emerging areas such as AI, data and security.

Partnership approach

Given the scale of our ambition, we have forged many valuable partnerships to help us deliver on our initiatives and reach more people.

In direct response to the thousands of people displaced during the pandemic and as part of our Pathways for Life education and training programme, we launched StepIn2Tech last year in collaboration with FIT to train 10,000 people with the necessary digital skills. to move into in-demand roles within the digital economy.

One of them was David whose work had been affected by the pandemic. Finding StepIn2Tech has given her the skills to secure a place in a pre-tech apprenticeship that will provide her with a springboard to a career in technology.

Meanwhile, the Microsoft Dream Space experience, through which we have been able to engage more than 80,000 young people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), has recently been boosted through our collaboration with RTÉ , which culminated in the recent launch of Ireland’s Future is MINE, an exciting national digital skills competition for primary schools.

We have also partnered with Maynooth University, Ireland’s fastest growing university, to roll out the Digital Wealth and STEM Passport for Inclusion projects, school programs designed to address the digital skills gap in education. and further strengthen the future Irish talent pool.

The reality is that no single entity can equip Ireland’s current and future workforce with the in-demand skills that will shape our economy and society today and tomorrow. As an active industry partner in the Human Capital Initiative which prioritizes skills development, we know that business needs to work with the Irish education sector, NGOs and government.

Stay competitive in the future

Ireland’s attractiveness as a top location for FDI relies and will continue to rely on its focus on the future and ensuring that our workforce has the skills and tools to innovate and be internationally competitive.

With an ever-changing global investment environment and a growing number of international competitors, this focus takes on even more importance.

Although Ireland currently ranks 13th in the IMD Global Competitiveness Rankings, we must strive to do better. By building Ireland’s skills, we can take the lead in an increasingly digital world and strengthen Ireland’s future competitiveness.

The road ahead

Looking to the future, one thing is clear: standing still is no longer an option. The government’s development of a new national digital strategy provides a unique window of opportunity to accelerate the digital transition underway across the public and private sectors so that Ireland can become the true digital leader in Europe.

Achieving this mission requires an inclusive approach, an approach that offers each person the opportunity to develop the skills needed to succeed. The launch of a report on Inclusive Education for Learners with Intellectual Disabilities by Minister Simon Harris in December is a welcome development in this regard.

I am extremely optimistic about the digital future of the country. With its remarkable group of technology companies and cutting-edge research, there has never been a better time for Ireland to set its benchmarks for digital leadership on the European and global stage.

That’s why I’m calling on business leaders, educators, community champions and policy makers to come together to make skills and lifelong learning a priority.

By working together, I believe we can build a digital economy and society that empowers every person and organization to achieve more.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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