6 top tech job campaigns upskilling the under-represented

By Kate Birch
How six US tech giants are addressing both the skills shortage and lack of diversity with inclusive nationwide upskilling initiatives

For a number of years, the world’s biggest tech firms have been rolling out upskilling campaigns, pledging billions to the training of society in order to bridge the skills shortage in the US and worldwide.

But with the pandemic having accelerated digital transformation, making tech skills even more critical and advanced, the gap continues to widen.

According to Gartner, the pandemic fast-forwarded digital skills adoption by at least five years, with the majority of organisations reporting a shift toward tech in terms of required skills.

Talent shortages at a 10-year high

The problem is that talent shortages in the US are now at a 10-year high, having more than tripled in a decade, according to a ManpowerGroup survey, and it is in the area of tech where skills are most in demand and difficult to find.

More than two-thirds of digital leaders in the US are now unable to keep pace with change because of the dearth of talent they need, according to the 2021 Harvey Nash Group Digital Leadership Report, with cybersecurity roles the most sought-after tech skill (43%), up by 11% in the last 12 months, followed by DevOps (39%) and big data (38%).

In a recent blog, Microsoft’s President Brad Smith pointed out “that for every two cybersecurity jobs that are filled in the US currently, a third job sits vacant due to the lack of talent here”. In fact, there are 464,200 open jobs in the US that require cybersecurity skills, accounting for 6% of all open jobs in the country.

"More than one out of every 20 open jobs in America today is a job that requires cybersecurity skills,” says Smith, adding that “every projection shows that the number of these jobs will grow even more in the years ahead”.

In September, Amazon’s chief executive Andy Jassy told Reuters that the ecommerce giant was planning to hire 55,000 people for corporate and technology roles globally up until the end of the year.

Business campaigns to help plug the tech skills gaps

To ensure a steady pipeline of tech talent, the World Economic Forum advises the collaboration of the public and private sectors on education and training in order to keep pace with market demands, demographic changes, and technology progress.

And big business – tech firms especially – are responding, taking big and bold steps to not only provide upskilling for their own employees, but for the nation as a whole ensuring that access to digital skills is available for all.

While tech giants like Microsoft, IBM, Salesforce, Amazon and Google have been investing in upskilling for a number of years, their latest initiatives are a little bit different in focus.

With an aim to democratise tech, the latest job campaigns from the tech giants address not just the issue of tech skills shortage, but also that of unemployment since the pandemic – with its impact further emphasising the growing economic opportunity gapes for under-represented groups.

These new upskilling initiatives target these groups ensuring that access to digital skills and employment opportunities become available to more people, and more diverse people, so everyone can take advantage of the digital economy.

We highlight the six tech firms taking tech training to the under-represented, from black women to veterans.


In October 2021, Microsoft launched a four-year national campaign with US community colleges to help skill and recruit 250,000 people by 2025 into the cybersecurity workforce – representing half of the country’s workforce shortage. Aimed at helping people from all backgrounds gain the skills and certifications needed to close the cybersecurity skills gap and build an inclusive cybersecurity workforce, Microsoft’s campaign will make curriculums available free of charge to all of the nation’s public community colleges; provide training for new and existing faculty at 150 community colleges; and provide scholarships and supplement resources to the 25,000 students.

This follows the tech giant’s commitment earlier in 2021 to commit US$20bn over five years to advance US security solutions and protect customers, as well as US$150m to help US government agencies upgrade protections and expand the country’s cybersecurity training partnerships.


In October 2021, IBM unveiled a ground-breaking commitment and global plan to provide 30 million people of all ages with new skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow by 2030. They have delivered a roadmap with more than 170 new academic and industry partnerships, leveraging their existing programmes and career-building platforms to expand access to education and in-demand technical roles. This will include collaborations with universities and key government entities including employment agencies and partnerships with NGOs which focus on underserved youth, women and vets.

In the US specifically, IBM will expand partnerships with several new partners, including Workforce Development Inc, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurships (NACCE), and OHUB, to offer training on the IBM SkillsBuild platform to upskill and reskill the workforce for the future of work.

3 Salesforce

In November 2021, Salesforce announced its intention to upskill 80,000 veterans, 40,000 more than its original commitment. Working with Trailblazers, the company is increasing its training goal from 40,000 veterans and military spouses to 80,000 over the next five years.

This is an extension of Salesforce Military, a free programme launched six years ago that commits to upskilling military community members by offering one single certification for Salesforce administration roles. Since then, Salesforce Military has upskilled and reskilled a growing community of military Trailblazers with high-demand tech skills and helped them launch careers through the Salesforce Talent Alliance, which consist of 700+ companies around the world that have pledged inclusive hiring practices.

4 Google

In August 2021, Google announced its pledge to train 100,000 black women in digital skills by 2022, an ambitious target, as part of the tech giant’s US415m initiative Grow With Google announced back in June. The goal now is to have these black women ready to take on the tech industry by spring 2022. The new initiative is in partnership with six Black women-led organisations. 

“Google will train these partners to deliver Grow with Google digital skills training and career development workshops to Black women in their communities,” says Melonie Parker, Google’s Chief Diversity Officer.

Back in 2017, Google pledged US$1bn to the Americas to help bridge the skills gap, committing grants over the next five years to non-profits and those organisations working to boost opportunity in key areas.


5 Tableau

In November 2021, Tableau announced that it was doubling down on its existing programmes, introducing new training opportunities to help people from all backgrounds and countries build essential data skills. The world-leading analytics platform pledged a commitment to enable 10 million data learners over the next five years. Alongside this, to help overcome the barriers that remain to skill-building programmes, Tableau Foundation unveiled a new US$45m, multi-year initiative supporting global non-profits committed to gender equity. Grants will support organisations helping women and girls learn essential data skills, with a focus on communities facing data literacy barriers.

With demand for data skills outpacing supply, and businesses becoming increasingly data-driven, these initiatives will help to close the data literacy gap as well as help people grow valuable, inclusive businesses. These new pledges accelerate Tableau’s longstanding commitment to closing the data literacy gap, and its Tableau Academic programme, university partnerships and data literacy eLearning have already reached millions of people.

6 Amazon

In September 2021, Amazon announced it was expanding its education and skills training benefits that it offers to its US employees with a total investment of US$1.2bn by 2025. This would fund college tuition for more than 75,0000 operations employees across the US ensuring all employees, no matter their background or circumstances, have access to education and self-improvement.

Via its popular Career Choice programme, Amazon will fund full college tuition, and high school diplomas, GEDs and ESL proficiency certifications for its frontline employees including those who have been at the firm for as little as three months. And it will pay them in advance. Employees will have access to annual funds for education as long as they remain at the company.

Amazon launched this programme a decade ago with the aim of removing the biggest barriers to continuing education – time and money – and are now expanding it further to pay full tuition. Previously, the ecommerce giant built more than 110 on-site classrooms for its employees in Amazon Fulfilment Centres across 37 states.


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