The Microsoft Traineeship Program brings diversity to the technology sector

With a tech sector workforce set to grow to 1.1 million people by 2026, Australia will need an additional 60,000 skilled workers each year just to keep pace. It’s a challenge that has spurred technology leader Microsoft Australia to devise innovative training programs to open the sector to a more diverse workforce, fill skills gaps and keep the company ahead. The company’s Skills and Employment Lead Tim Allen says getting the right skills in critical areas like cyber security and the cloud is “the number one challenge” for the industry.


Trainees at the Microsoft Traineeship Program Australia


“If people don’t have the capability and skills to understand or deploy those products then that has an impact on us, but more importantly, has an impact on our ecosystem from a productivity perspective.”


In addition to the economic need for a reliable pipeline of IT talent, the social impact is just as important to Allen’s team at Microsoft.


Until recently, careers in IT were only accessed through traditional pathways involving higher education at a high price point. This meant that many marginalised communities were excluded from the digital economy.


By combining the significant business need for more trained staff with the important social need for alternative education models, Microsoft Australia is solving for both. In 2018 the Microsoft Traineeship Program (MTP) was launched.


Allen says the MTP provides aspiring IT professionals with a credible, alternative industry pathway. Organisations also gain direct access to a diverse pool of new and emerging talent.


The two-year program is helping budding IT professionals get their foot in the door of Australia’s technology sector to build rewarding careers, regardless of age or experience.


The MTP enables participants to ‘earn while they learn’, providing paid, on-the-job experience with a host employer from Microsoft Australia’s partner network.


The program is managed by MEGT, a national non-profit which works to deliver employment and education solutions to employers, students and job seekers. Graduates receive a nationally accredited Certificate IV in Information Technology delivered by registered training organisations such as the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT), RMIT University, TAFE NSW and TAFE SA, as well as a globally recognised Microsoft certifications delivered by Prodigy Learning.


“We don’t want to exclude people from the opportunity to participate and thrive in the digital economy,” says Allen. “We want to be inclusive by providing alternate employment pathways .”


The Traineeship Program is supported by Microsoft’s host employer network, which to date includes over 75 partner organisations including ANZ, Fujitsu and KPMG.


Outcomes for trainees are very similar to graduate programs, and in many cases result in higher starting salaries for the candidate and a reduced administrative burden for partner organisations, who avoid having to hire and manage trainees themselves.


Evan Edlington is a recent graduate of the Microsoft Traineeship Program and is now employed full-time by business consultancy firm, Atturra. He calls the program “life changing” and credits it with setting his career on track:


“I have gone from feeling lost in life to having a career working with amazing people and technology at Atturra.”


But it isn’t just workforce entrants benefiting. MTP has also been popular with  career- changers looking for a way into tech.


“We’ve seen 30- to 40-year-olds who have seen their careers accelerate after completing the program as they have a foundation of skills that are easily transferable.” Allen says.


Microsoft Australia’s leadership is working, and demand for this innovative approach is growing.


The results speak from themselves.


By removing the barriers to entry, MTP has received more than 10,000 applications from a diverse set of workers and so far nearly 400 graduates have entered the workforce since 2019.


And for many, as Edlington says, “the Microsoft traineeship has been lifechanging.”


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