Microsoft Cozies Up To Government With Jobless Initiative

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Software giant targets smaller UK businesses and rising unemployment, getting 500,000 back to work over the next three years

Microsoft has launched its ‘Britain Works‘ campaign to help 500,000 people into work by 2012, in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and The Work Foundation.

The scheme will provide a combination of a new national apprenticeship scheme, targeted skills and employability training and a new job matching service, which Microsoft said it would deliver by working with its partners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), like UK Online Centres, as well as local government to deliver this ambitious target.

Gordon Frazer, Microsoft UK managing director said: “[The initiative] represents the start of a nationwide programme, which I hope will have a real impact at grassroots level across the UK. Of course we can’t wave a magic wand and create jobs for all, and that is why ‘Britain Works’ is specifically designed to give people the opportunity to get the skills and support they need to change their lives themselves.”

This commitment comes as ONS figures released in August show that unemployment has risen to 2.4 million in the UK. With the CBI forecasting that unemployment will peak at over 3 million and with new unemployment figures due next week, ICM Research, commissioned by Microsoft, indicated further downbeat perceptions of employment prospects, with over a third (35%) of adults in the country having become more worried about losing their job in the last six months.

Supported by the Work Foundation, spearheaded by Lord Digby Jones and backed by all of the main political parties, the programme will initially offer a range of initiatives focussed around skills and training. Today also marks the national launch of the IT apprenticeship scheme for smaller businesses. Having been trialled in the West Midlands, Microsoft said the aim is to have more than 700 IT apprentices by September 2010 and more than 3,000 over the three year campaign.

Speaking at the launch, Lord Digby Jones said: “Next week, we are expecting the number of people unemployed to top 2.5 million for the first time since 1995. That’s a frightening prospect, but I also know that there are thousands of people who do not have the appropriate skills that businesses need in today’s IT led economy. Businesses still need these people, and so a significant part of the this campaign will focus on making ‘Skills for Business’ training vouchers available to people who want to give themselves an extra chance when going for interviews.”