KINGSTON, JAMAICA — The Caribbean has long contended with a skills gap challenge among its workforce, but Jamaica moved one step closer to solving that problem by partnering with Microsoft to launch a five-year Digital Skills Programme.
The ambitious program was created to help remedy a dearth of local information technology (IT) workers, with a particular focus on employability.
As she expressed gratitude to Microsoft Jamaica, Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams said, “The digital economy that has emerged over recent years has created new openings in cloud computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. These have and are transforming the organization of labour, production and trade around the world.
“These require skilled people, and so it is very important for employees to have specialist skills in information communication technology (ICT) to function in these areas.”
Yamile Bustamante, country representative for Microsoft, added, “Through this initiative, we seek to bring digital learning platforms closer to people from all ages and different backgrounds, so that they can gain new technological knowledge.
“We specially want to target young audiences so we can help them become a more efficient and future-proof workforce. Thus, we will support the Jamaican labour force to evolve at the same pace as industries, increasing its ability to get more and better jobs.”
The program’s implementation comes at a time when the Inter-American Competitiveness Network (RIAC) believes “digital transformation can help turn the COVID-19 crisis into a new development opportunity”, providing “new tools and opportunities for countries in the region” in areas such as innovations in business models and generation of new employment dynamics in labour markets.
Williams outlined that under the program, “approximately 31,000 persons would be trained each year up to the year of 2026, gaining valuable skills to participate in a digital future”. There is no age limit and no “obstacles to entry”, she added.
In the first phase, Microsoft will fund the training of 100 trainers selected by the government, which in return will extend the skills for over 155,000 Jamaicans within the five-year period. The initial training will be delivered by Microsoft’s nonprofit partners and fully funded by Microsoft.
Williams continued, “We are very happy to enter this agreement with Microsoft Jamaica as we continue the push to close the digital skills gaps among Jamaicans.”
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Inter-American Competitiveness Network (RIAC) report “Digital Transformation: Economic and Employment Reactivation in Latin America and the Caribbean Post-COVID-19” — http://riacevents.org/gtecs/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/ENG-TD-y-su-papel-en-promover-la-reactivacio%C3%ACn-con-transformacio%C3%ACn-en-AL.pdf