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  • Markle & Microsoft

    A Partnership for the Digital Economy


Why Microsoft and The Markle Foundation Are Working Together to Connect Workers with New Opportunities in the Digital Economy

By Zoë Baird and Brad Smith

Today we announced a three year partnership between The Markle Foundation and Microsoft Philanthropies. Microsoft is investing more than $25 million over three years in Markle and the expansion of its successful Skillful initiative, first across Colorado and then to other states. This is one of the single biggest philanthropic investments Microsoft Philanthropies has made, reflecting the importance of the work involved.

The workforce is undergoing an upheaval unlike anything we’ve seen since coal and steam propelled machines to the forefront of industry in the 19th Century. Technological advancements, like cloud computing, computer automation, and artificial intelligence, are demanding new skills and making long-familiar occupations almost unrecognizable. Here in the United States, millions of Americans, whose skills were valuable just a few years ago, find themselves underemployed—or worse, out of work altogether. On the flip side, employers who are digitally transforming their own operations are unable to find enough skilled workers to effectively run their businesses.


The Markle Foundation and Microsoft Partner to Accelerate a Skills-based Labor Market for the Digital Economy

NEW YORK and REDMOND, Wash. — On Wednesday, the Markle Foundation and Microsoft Corp. announced a three-year partnership to expand Markle’s Skillful initiative, a data-driven approach to connecting American workers and businesses in a rapidly evolving labor market. While advances in technology have helped the economy overall, some American workers are being displaced. Jobs in growing sectors increasingly require new skills earned through a post-secondary degree, certificate or credentialing program. Particularly vulnerable are the nearly seven out of 10 Americans who have transferable skills, but not a four-year college degree.

In response, Microsoft’s corporate giving arm Microsoft Philanthropies is making a significant investment to expand Skillful, which was launched in Colorado in 2016. Skillful brings together key players across the labor market — employers, state and federal governments, LinkedIn, educators, and workforce centers — to help American workers adapt to the changing workplace. Skillful’s coaches and online services enable job seekers to learn what skills are in demand, and access professional training at any stage of their career. At the same time, Skillful aligns employers and educators so that their training programs teach the skills required to succeed in today’s digital economy.


Creating a Skills-Based Labor Market





Skillful Stories

Bylo Farmer recently decided it was time for a new career. She had a bachelor’s degree in Recreation Management, but had been out of the field for more than 20 years. She wanted to start over in something fresh and exciting. She had heard a lot about advanced manufacturing as a growing industry in Colorado that offered good jobs, and she decided to sign up for courses at her local community college.


After high school, Ron Gallegos attended the University of Denver. But due to a financial set-back, he had to forgo formal education during his junior year in favor of full-time employment.


Aqua Hot Heating Systems is an advanced manufacturing company just north of Denver, Colorado that specializes in heating and cooling systems for RVs, commercial fleets, and school buses, as well as industrial and oilfield applications.


Travis Little, a 33 year old resident of Loveland, Colorado, attended a Skillful workshop in search of a career path that would enable him to put his skills as a mechanical engineer to use in another industry.