To bridge the digital skills divide, Microsoft, the County and partners launch Accelerate Miami-Dade

The goal: ‘To help drive economic development and growth, but also ensure that we bring everyone along’ – Jacky Wright, Microsoft’s Chief Digital Officer

Two realities so very far apart: Miami-Dade is experiencing a tech boom that looks poised to quickly deliver hundreds of high-paying technology jobs in fast-growing, emerging industries to the region’s economy that is  currently dominated by lower-wage service-oriented jobs. But Miami-Dade also has one of the nation’s largest digital divides, and those communities on the other side have been especially hard hit by the pandemic crisis and face barriers to acquiring new-economy skills.   

Today, Microsoft, Miami-Dade County and a host of community partners are announcing the launch of Accelerate Miami-Dade, which aims to bridge the digital skills divide and provide a pathway from skilling to employment.  Accelerate is fundamentally different from other skilling initiatives in that the model is based on an ecosystem partnership that provides upskilling, re-skilling and cross-skilling for in-demand jobs and a path to keep pace with the skills of the new economy.

“We are committed to making sure that everyone in Miami-Dade can participate and take advantage of the technology boom of our time by expanding access to learning opportunities that open the door to new, better-paying jobs,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, in a statement. “I’m thrilled to launch this partnership with Microsoft to accelerate our residents’ technology skills, especially in the most underserved communities. Our community needs better access to technology education at all ages, and this program will help us accomplish that.”

With a focus on underserved communities, this coalition of partners will create the right conditions and a local pipeline for delivering the high-tech skilling, and then help match the right skills with the right corporations, small and medium-sized businesses and startups, said Jacky Wright, Chief Digital Officer for Microsoft US. The goal:  “To help drive economic development and growth, but also ensure that we bring everyone along,” said Wright, in an interview with Refresh Miami.  

Jacky Wright, Chief Digital Officer, Microsoft US

That starts with identifying the key industries and sectors in the region – some of those could include the services sector, tourism, healthcare, biotech and sustainability, she said — and then develop personas and skill based curricula that meet the needs of the local community. National and local partners will help to develop and train the job seekers while also breaking down barriers to skilling up, such as by providing equipment or transportation services. Wright said the program is designed for a three-year time frame.

Community partners, including Miami-Dade Beacon Council, Greater Miami Chamber, Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce and United Way Miami, will provide insights on local needs and will help mobilize the community, connecting those who can benefit most from increased digital equity with opportunities. Learning partners, including General Assembly, Generation USA, Goodwill, Miami-Dade College, Notre Dame D’Haiti Tech Lab, Springboard and Year Up, will help deliver the curriculum as well as credentials programs that empower job seekers for the next step in their careers. Microsoft is providing global resources, including free courses across Microsoft Learn and LinkedIn aligned to the top 10 most in-demand jobs.

To be sure, Microsoft, which has had offices in Broward County for 25 years, has long been an active player in the South Florida tech community, supporting tech programs in the region’s public schools, local colleges and universities as well as working with tech-focused nonprofits including Miami EdTech, Code/Art, South Florida Tech Hub and Boca Code, just to name a few. Last month, Microsoft announced it is leasing 50,000 square feet for a new regional hub in Brickell. “Accelerating Miami-Dade is just the latest step in our commitment to this community.” Wright said.

A measurement of the program’s success in creating skilled individuals will  be the economic development and economic mobility in underserved communities in particular, while ensuring an inclusive tech hub, Wright said. “How the communities are transforming will be a measure of success for me.”

Father Reginald Jean-Mary, pastor and administrator of Notre Dame D’Haiti and CEO of the Pierre Toussaint Leadership and Learning Center, is participating in the partnership and has high hopes for transformation. “The partnership with the Microsoft Accelerate program is a new approach to technology in Little Haiti. It is a break from mediocrity that will help our community thrive with a way out and not a handout,” he said.

Job seekers in Miami-Dade can view programs, events and opportunities available now at AccelerateMiamiDade.

For example, Miami Dade College is launching a Cloud Skills Challenge with Microsoft, a 30-day accelerated learning environment that helps participants acquire and expand skills in cloud computing, AI and machine learning through Microsoft Learn modules, all while competing with others. The Challenge begins Oct. 11 and is free and open to all and participants will receive a Microsoft certification voucher to complete industry recognized certifications, such as Microsoft Azure Fundamentals or Azure AI Fundamentals. More info: Miami Dade College Cloud Skills Challenge.

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