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The struggle of underserved communities to access economic opportunity in a world that is rapidly digitizing has been further compounded by systemic injustice. Nation-wide protests this past year shone a spotlight on systemic inequities around racial, economic, gender, and ability biases, summoning leaders to come up with bold solutions.

We all have a role to play in ensuring that historically underrepresented communities have access not only to skilling opportunities and career support, but a sense of belonging in this space. Microsoft and partners across the ecosystem, like Madinah Ali, President of Safe PC Solutions in Atlanta, are working together to close the digital divide and opportunity gaps that exist for Black and African Americans in tech.

Microsoft invests in building an inclusive workforce through mix of initiatives

Microsoft has taken our role in addressing economic inclusion seriously, with a commitment to increase Black partner representation in our ecosystem by 20% within three years. We’ve scaled up existing programs and launched new initiatives in a multi-year, multi-faceted approach to building a more inclusive workforce.

In an effort to increase representation and strengthen our culture of inclusion within our partner community, we’re expanding and adding programs to support the growth of Black-owned businesses, including the Black and African American Partner Growth Initiative, a business incubator; #MicrosoftAdvance, the Initiative’s new accelerator; and the Clear Vision Impact Fund, which seeks to counter chronic underinvestment in minority-owned businesses through improved access to capital.

We also recognize that nurturing a more diverse workforce means investing down-stream. In 2020, Microsoft launched a global skills initiative with the aim of training 25 million people worldwide with skills they need for in-demand roles. US-based implementations of the global initiative include Microsoft Accelerate which partners with local community leaders and businesses to provide no-cost tech skilling to underserved communities, and the Microsoft’s community skills program which provides financial grants and tech enablement to community-based non-profits. These partnerships provide not only digital skills but instill confidence through a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion.

In addition to providing greater opportunities and access to skilling, we recognize the need for a broader cultural shift through an emphasis on allyship and D&I training. We launched a series of Diversity & Inclusion learning paths, to provide our employees and partners a shared language around inclusion. We also hosted Microsoft Include, which brought together some of the top minds in academia, law, social justice, and human behavior for a conversation around diversity & inclusion.

Each of these efforts seeks to enact meaningful change and create stronger communities and businesses through a more inclusive economy.

Working together to drive change in and beyond our ecosystem

Partners are not only colleagues in delivering solutions but in realizing a more inclusive economy. When you consider the reach of the Microsoft partner ecosystem, it’s hard to imagine a limit to the change we could enact if we made this a shared mission. That’s why we want to challenge you to take meaningful steps to further economic inclusion within your own sphere of influence.

To get started, we’ve identified 5 ways partners can leverage Microsoft resources and programs to participate in building an inclusive economy.

1. Partner with us on Microsoft Accelerate

Partner with Microsoft Accelerate to amplify free training and resources within your community, helping you build up a more diverse, local talent pool. Or contact us to hire talent from the Accelerate program.

Learn more about Microsoft Accelerate

2. Become a Career Connector employer

Career Connector helps partners fill critical roles, stay competitive, and build a more diverse and inclusive workforce by connecting you with job seekers from Microsoft’s nonprofit and learning partner network. More than a digital job board, AI-powered matching and hands-on screening and placement services make it easier and faster to find the right candidate for in-demand, early-career roles.

Learn more about how to find skilled job seekers and grow a more inclusive workforce

3. Join the Black and African American Partner Growth Initiative

Join the Initiative to receive support to help you engage successfully with the Partner Network, and accelerate growth through greater community connections, stronger partnerships through Microsoft’s expansive ecosystem and platforms, and access to capital. Initiative members can also apply to participate in #MicrosoftAdvance, a brand-new accelerator kicking off in October 2021.

Learn more and join the Initiative

4. Become an ally

Develop your team’s social-emotional intelligence through learning modules in Microsoft’s Inclusion Journey content library. From allyship and bias to identity and intersectionality, every team member will find inspiring ways to grow.

Explore our Inclusion Journey learning modules

5. Build your own program

Join partners across the ecosystem who are partnering with organizations in their own community to equip students, displaced workers, and underserved populations with digital skills. Consider how you can leverage your own business and social connections to build a more diverse talent pool for high-demand sectors and establish Microsoft technology hubs.

Get inspired by this story from Microsoft partner Neudesic

Safe PC Solutions multiplies program benefits for their community

Safe PC Solutions, an Atlanta-based IT managed services company, is an example of how partners can embrace inclusion-focused programs to build up their business and others at the same time.

Safe PC Solutions is a member of Microsoft’s Black and African American Partner Growth Initiative, which has contributed to the growth of their business and enabled them to create more jobs in their community. Recognizing the value of their position as a Black-owned company in the tech industry and with a passion for closing the digital divide, they launched a training division, Safe PC EdTech, to provide IT training and certifications to women and minorities.

‘We saw an opportunity through our local non-profit partners to provide the IT training and resources [including] loaner laptops, internet access, mentoring, and career development,’ to communities disproportionally displaced by the pandemic, said Madinah Ali, President and Co-founder of Safe PC Solutions. Safe PC EdTech partners closely with Microsoft Accelerate and Career Connector, as well as Microsoft employee resource groups and the Microsoft Atlanta hub team, to provide skilling, job placement, and mentorship opportunities for their program participants.

The impact of the EdTech program and Microsoft involvement has been enormous, particularly for women who have experienced various forms of trauma. ‘They really feel like Microsoft cares and that Empathy in Action is full and alive,’ claimed Madinah. ‘It’s just Microsoft creating an entire ecosystem of their partner network, of job skilling, reskilling, upskilling in the community, working with the local nonprofits … that goes back to Microsoft’s mission about making sure everyone has access to technology,’ she said. ‘So that’s why we’re very excited about Microsoft.’

Watch Tyler Bryson’s 3 Questions interview with Madinah below:

We’re honored to partner with leaders like Madinah Ali who bring value to our shared customers through their solutions, and to our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Get started now

Ready to partner toward a more inclusive economy and workforce? Take a first step:

  1. Join the Black and African American Partner Growth Initiative
  2. Partner with Microsoft Accelerate
  3. Become a Career Connector employer
  4. Become an ally
  5. Launch your own digital skills program

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