Microsoft Professional Program: Bridging the Skills Gap Between Employer and Employee


By Jennifer Sohonie

As an executive chef and skills training specialist in the culinary arts, my wardrobe choices were always extremely limited: Black slacks and white shirt, end of story. So when I joined the staff at Bellevue College Continuing Education (BCCE) about a year ago, one of the biggest adjustments was choosing what to wear each day.

Looking back today, that change pales in comparison to some of the latest developments in our work with Microsoft’s 21st Century Employability program.

It’s nothing new to work with Microsoft, given how close we are to their main campus. What is new is the depth to which we’re doing so. About six months ago, Microsoft invited BCCE to join a consortium of 12 schools around the world that are working with them to fill the skills gap in the areas of artificial intelligence, data science and big data.

Earlier this year, BCCE launched the first eight-week programs in each of these areas, and the first cadres are just now wrapping up. To give them the best possible chance at success, Microsoft has developed a handful of additional programs that will help them to gain additional experience outside the classroom, and to develop some of the crucial soft skills that companies look for in their employees:

  • Gig work for Higher Ed students
    • Through Microsoft’s partnership with Upwork, students who have earned certification in Data Analytics or Data Science through MPP will qualify for gig work opportunities to work with real employers.
  • Personal Social Network Workshop
    • After completing this workshop, MPP students will have an action plan based on their own network of personal and professional contacts, which will help forge a path for achieving their goals.
  • LinkedIn Learning
    • Students who complete MPP will be given access to more than 10 hours of LinkedIn training, covering the soft skills that are essential to success, including communications, critical thinking and team-building, and many more.

Microsoft’s goal is to make these programs scalable and repeatable, so schools can get these programs off the ground with minimal muss and fuss. To this end, they not only went to considerable length in developing and testing the curriculum for the programs, but they’ve also commissioned BCCE to develop starter kits that provide the necessary slides, handouts and other course materials a school would need to get the programs going.

It’s amazing to help redefine the role of community colleges in bringing together companies and qualified employees, and we’re eager to explore the opportunities with other companies as well.

Last Updated June 12, 2019