Microsoft said it aims to place 50,000 people around the world in jobs that require technology skills as part of a broader push being undertaken with its professional networking website LinkedIn to help workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic move into new fields.  

The jobs will be in what Microsoft calls its "ecosystem" of companies that use or help sell its products. 

The effort started last year as pandemic-related business closures hit service workers much harder than technology workers and other white-collar employees who could work from home. 

LinkedIn made free many of its paid digital skills training courses, covering topics such as software development, data analysis and financial analysis.

It said it will extend the free courses until the end of this year.  

Microsoft and LinkedIn had aimed to get 25 million people to try the courses and said that the figure hit 30.7 million, most from the US but with many from almost every other part of the world.

"I wasn't expecting 91 participants from Antarctica," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post announcing the results. 

Microsoft said it found that digital training courses work best when supported by local nonprofit groups who help people learning new skills.

It said it would work with those groups to place 50,000 people in jobs that require technology skills over the next three years. 

In Ireland, Microsoft and LinkedIn are partnering with Fastrack to IT (FIT), a representative organisation of the technology sector committed to growing the country's tech talent pipeline, to expand the reach and awareness of the Global Skills Initiative and its resources. 

FIT will provide learners with access to the free digital skills courses as well as other learning resources provided by the company. 

The initiative comes as new data from LinkedIn finds that 31% of all new jobs started in Ireland last year were by people moving into different industries or functions where they may not have had previous experience. 

It noted that as career switching becomes more prevalent due to the pandemic, companies must move to assess candidates on their skills and potential as much as their formal qualifications and direct work experience to ensure a fair recovery and successful future. 

Cathriona Hallahan, MD of Microsoft Ireland, said the company was delighted to announce the extended availability of the Global Skills Initiative's digital skills training resources at a time when the digitization of all sectors and industries is accelerating.  

"The past year has proven just how impactful technology and digital capabilities can be, but it's also highlighted areas where gaps are emerging. The digital transformation witnessed over the past year now has to be maintained and to do that we need to ensure our workforces have the digital skills to keep pace," Ms Hallahan said. 

"These resources are designed for everyone - regardless of your career background or learning pathway. They don't require digital capabilities or previous experience and are a free resource so I really hope people will take advantage of the materials to equip themselves with the in-demand skills required in the jobs market today," she added.

Sharon McCooey, Head of LinkedIn in Ireland, said that Covid-19 has forced some people to seek job opportunities in a different sector, and the company's data shows that those professionals are developing new technical and interpersonal skills to switch careers. 

"By taking a skills-based approach to hiring, employers can access a broader talent pool by prioritising capabilities and potential over their experience to date," Ms McCooey said. 

"That's why we are continuing our commitment to help professionals everywhere learn new skills through our partnership with Microsoft, offering free access to online learning courses through LinkedIn Learning and developing new products to help people match their skills with opportunities," she added.