Blog by: Florian Georg, Developer Audience Lead at Microsoft
Microsoft at Experts Live: The Swiss Tech Skilling Paradox
For years already, Switzerland has been considered to be one of the best places on this planet to live and work. Cities like Lausanne, Zurich, Bern, Geneva etc. constantly score high on quality of living that manifests itself clearly in education, infrastructure, healthcare, political stability and other domains.
It's fair to say that the Swiss IT industry contributes a lot to this. The industry is innovative and thriving. The diverse community of experts from Switzerland and all over the world make sure day to day that critical infrastructure is running, your personal data is safe and businesses stay innovative through employing the latest advancements in technology.
2020 hit the world hard, with Switzerland not being an exception. The current difficult situation unveiled a somewhat "paradox": While we are short on IT professionals, at the same time layoffs are also expected to rise due to the economic situation.
On one hand, Swiss ICT predicts a shortage of skilled IT personal in the next few years.
It is estimated that there will be a shortage of over 35k professionals until 2028 who will not be able to get "organically" educated within the Swiss education system.
On top of that, already today many smaller companies find it hard to compete with larger international companies on the best IT talents.
Even if we take these numbers with a grain of salt (as employers would usually prefer to have a pool of candidates competing for a job), there is clearly a big demand for skilled knowledgeable workers in the Swiss IT industry for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, the national unemployment in ICT jobs is expected to rise above the 2.2% we had in 2019.
The ICT sector will probably not be effected as bad as other important Swiss industries (think tourism) - but still it means that a lot of people may need to reorient towards new jobs.
Some people may find that they have been working so hard in their current jobs, that they missed the opportunity to update their skills for a few years in order to keep up with the latest market trends and technology advances.
There's clearly a need for acquiring skills around key industry trends - think e.g. about Cloud, IoT, Machine Learning/A.I and the cultural impact of modern practices like DevOps on existing organizational structures.
So, what does that mean? We at Microsoft think on how we can do our part to contribute to build relevant, modern IT skills in our market which can meet the changing needs of companies for their digital transformation and business innovation efforts.
We support various upskilling initiatives, especially for technical roles such as developers, architects, requirements engineers, QA professionals and IT operations. When we say "developers", we typically mean "makers" - people somehow involved with building and maintaining software-intense IT systems.
Microsoft also has become more open and inclusive on technology and co-opetition: We openly talk about and actively contribute to Open Source initiatives, such as Kubernetes, .NET Core, Python and many others. We support popular tech stacks such as Java/Spring and Linux containers and are innovating in the open on GitHub - did you know that Visual Studio Code, the world's most popular open source Code editor, is largely developed in … Wollishofen ?
Here's a list of some skilling related programs we run in 2020.
Community events and meetups
This is our community backbone - tech people love to learn from peers, not from vendors. It's crucial to empower and support our tech communities, and also broaden our horizon to be more inclusive and empower underrepresented groups to take more prominent roles here.
Especially for people in developer roles, this has been a popular format for years. Hackathons are a great opportunity to work for a few days as a team on innovative ideas and sponsored challenges. You can acquire new and show off skills to potential employers and customers - or come up with a prototype for your next Startup.
This is an (currently virtual), immersive hands-on tech event. Over usually three days participants work on a set of real-world challenges that build on top of each other. The idea is to have a close-to-reality experience around one topic like DevOps, Containers, Database modernization etc.
Immersion Workshops ("in-a-day workshops")
Usually delivered by our partners, leveraging content from Microsoft, these provide a hands on experience to learn new technologies or key topics, like .NET migration or Cloud Architecture best practices.
These are introduction webinars that we run as part of a centralized European motion. It is mostly focused on introductory level material, such as "Azure Fundamentals" or a first overview on Microsoft technologies.
Cloud Skills Challenges (CSC)
Based on our global MS Learn site, Cloud Skills Challenges (CSC) are time-boxed (e.g. 30 days) "gamified" challenges.
We set up a collection of relevant learning materials, such as labs, tutorials and articles. The exact content is flexible and can be selected together with educators or HR partners for example. During the challenge, participants gain experience points (XP) for every learning activity. There are leaderboards showing who's the most active and engaged learner. It has a motivational, fun competition aspect to it.
Enterprise Skilling Initiatives (ESI)
Of course, Microsoft has structured learning paths and programs for companies that want to upskill their employees on Microsoft solutions. This is usually worked out together with the customer as a part of their corporate education strategy, and focuses on paths that lead towards acquiring official Microsoft Certifications. Professional certifications are valuable credentials for customers, partner and individuals that showcase your level of commitment and dedication to learn and aquire new, relevant skills.
Enterprise Dev Communities
Many companies encourage to build in-house communities to foster experience exchange and information flow between corporate "silos". For example, some companies build "Cloud Competence Centers" or just start with a series of more informal "Lunch break sessions". We at Microsoft are working with our customers to support the "organic" growth of such internal communities, e.g. by connecting with great speakers, helping in event organization and sponsoring. Enterprise Dev Communities can be a great addition to a strategic skilling programs like ESI above, as they are adding a less formal, bottom-up "grassroots" community approach. You typically don't earn a formal certificate, but on the other hand there are virtually no limits on the content and topics presented.
There are many other areas where we are: from guest lectures at schools and universities, our Startup mentoring programs, special events we setup with partners and the community and our corporate responsibility and "Hack4Good" philanthropy programs…. There is a lot of opportunity to learn and engage.
So, these are some of the ideas on how Microsoft will try to tackle the swiss (Tech) skilling "paradox":
Reaching and skilling more people (especially young people and underrepresented groups) to acquire industry relevant, cutting-edge technical skills.
At the same time, we offer more senior IT experts "upgrade paths" to leverage their existing experience and enrich it with modern technologies to support employability and potential role & career changes.
Switzerland is a rich and beautiful country in many aspects: nature, culture, people and business. To keep this sustainable, we need to invest in our individual skills and in our technical communities and partners. We want to provide safe, open and inclusive spaces for sharing experiences, acquire new skills and strengthen our personal and professional networks.
If you have questions or ideas around our efforts - we will be at the Experts Live conference talking about this exact topic. We'd love to talk to you about this. For more information also check out the following links:
Azure Tech Communities: https://www.meetup.com/pro/azuretechcommunities/
Microsoft Switzerland Event calendar: https://aka.ms/ch-azure
Microsoft OpenHacks: https://openhack.microsoft.com/
Microsoft Cloud Skills Challenge (CSC): https://youtu.be/_udMuGog9nI
Blog Author: Florian Georg, Developer Audience Lead at Microsoft