Wayne State University and Microsoft Corp. announced a new partnership to pilot an employability skills program. The program will foster job-ready, employable talent for high-demand technical positions such as cloud computing, data analytics, cybersecurity, AI engineering and more. Wayne State is part of a select group of universities globally involved in the pilot program. The goal is to create economic opportunities and a talent pipeline that will strengthen Detroit’s ongoing revitalization.
“At Microsoft, we want to empower everyone to achieve their career aspirations and make sure they can succeed in a technology-driven society,” said Karen Kocher, global general manager, 21st Century Jobs, Skills and Employability for Microsoft. “We aim to move people and technology forward together. We are proud to work with Wayne State as the university provides leadership and opportunities at a key moment in Detroit’s history.”
The initiative seeks to address current and projected shortages of skilled technology workers. In addition, it will explore how technology education can keep up with the swift evolution of technology. This effort to enhance technical learning experiences for students is particularly important as the greater Detroit region strives to become a home for the transforming mobility industry and looks toward employing new technological solutions for addressing health disparities.
“We are a place of opportunity and upward mobility in the heart of Detroit, a city undergoing a significant transformation,” said Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson. “Partnering with Microsoft’s employability initiative will help move the city forward. We have enjoyed recent successes in student achievement, enhanced research funding and more, and this will ensure this momentum continues while building the digital economy workforce for Detroit and this entire region.”
The Microsoft partnership will provide Wayne State students with the Microsoft Professional Program curriculum to enhance students’ knowledge with up-to-date technical skills that will make them more valuable to potential employers.
“Student success and employability are tied together,” said Wayne State University Provost Keith Whitfield. “We want our students to reach their graduation day, and we also want them to have great jobs to go to the following week. Moreover, we want the businesses and industries in Detroit and Michigan to view our graduates as integral to their growth and success. This pilot program with Microsoft helps us institutionalize our efforts and ensure our graduates are ready for 21st-century jobs.”
The program extends Microsoft’s commitment to the city. In spring 2018, the company opened a Microsoft Technology Center in downtown Detroit to serve as its Great Lakes regional headquarters, and Microsoft-owned LinkedIn secured a permanent office downtown to meet the needs of its expanded team.
“Our city is quickly becoming a major center for technology innovation and that shift is creating a whole new range of career opportunities that previously haven’t been within easy reach of many Detroiters,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “This new partnership between Wayne State University and Microsoft will be an important addition to our ongoing efforts to provide residents the education and training they need to take advantage of these tech sector opportunities. It also will make our city even more desirable to tech companies looking to locate in an area with a highly skilled workforce.”
Wayne State and Microsoft have spent the last 18 months exploring other partnership opportunities that will enhance the university’s data systems and impact student success and research initiatives. In 2018, Wayne State and Microsoft launched several programs in Detroit, including a technology curriculum for teachers and students through the Microsoft Imagine Academy and a pilot program in partnership with Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, a citywide summer jobs program. Microsoft also supplied HoloLens technology to Wayne State that was used in recruiting efforts for the School of Medicine and will be used to enhance classes and simulation labs with virtual reality and augmented reality learning experiences.
Future projects include a technology skills camp for high school students at Wayne State’s Mike Ilitch School of Business; TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), a Microsoft program to increase youth access to computer science and computer engineering education; and enhancements to Wayne State’s existing K-12 STEM learning initiatives in the College of Engineering.