Breaking Barriers and Microsoft: Unlocking the talent of refugees

Discover how Microsoft employees are volunteering to run training pathways that support refugees to develop essential skills for jobs.


Breaking Barriers

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In 2023 Breaking Barriers launched ‘Unlocking Refugee Talent’, a sector-leading partnership with Microsoft, LinkedIn and Barclays LifeSkills to meet the urgent and growing need for refugee employment support and digital inclusion in the UK.

The first-of-its-kind initiative draws on the resources, talent and skills programmes of all four organisations and aims to improve the employability and digital skills of 250 refugees in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Many of our clients are keen and qualified to find meaningful employment in the UK. However, they face barriers such as accessing technology, developing and practising the much-needed digital skills for today’s modern workplace, and understanding emerging industries such as AI.

The role of Microsoft

Alongside vital donations of laptops for refugees who otherwise would be unable to access them, Microsoft employees are volunteering to run training pathways that support refugees to develop essential skills for jobs.

As part of this unique partnership, refugees have access to Microsoft and LinkedIn’s training resources, including the Skills for Jobs Learning Pathways and Career Essential Certificates.

Two bespoke training pathways have already been completed, supporting groups of refugees to develop their skills and gain Microsoft certifications in data and administration and learning about career pathways in these sectors. The first training pathway covered Career Essentials in Software Development, and the second Administrative Skills for Professionals. 19 clients have gained certifications to date.

The Microsoft courses have been instrumental in enhancing my skill set in various domains, particularly in Data Analysis and Professional Communication. Through these courses, I was able to reskill and update my existing competencies, ensuring that I stay abreast of the latest technologies and industry trends in both fields and also improved my ability to effectively communicate complex concepts and present findings in a clear and compelling manner.

Overall, the Microsoft courses have been invaluable in equipping me with the necessary tools and knowledge to excel in my role as a Business and Data Analyst. I am confident that the skills acquired through these courses will continue to benefit me in my career.

Alice, a Breaking Barriers client

The next pathway will give refugees the opportunity to gain a Microsoft certification in Generative AI. Refugees will learn about the core concepts of Artificial Intelligence, explore existing tools, and consider the impact and ethics of using AI.

This week, volunteers from Microsoft will be helping refugees work through the modules, and gain their certifications. They will also run a tailored session about careers in AI so that participants can understand their potential career options, ask questions of people working in the sector, and take their next steps with confidence.

I volunteered with Breaking Barriers because I believe in the power of equal opportunity and access to meaningful employment. Seeing the progress of clients as they gained new skills and confidence on the Skills for Jobs programme has been immensely rewarding, and I wholeheartedly recommend volunteering with Breaking Barriers.

Hannah Matthews, Customer Success Account Manager, Microsoft

It’s initiatives like these that are a win-win. Refugees have the opportunity to learn key skills for employment in the UK, meet other people in similar situations and network with employees at our corporate partners.

For our partners, it creates meaningful and impactful volunteering opportunities for their employees. Volunteers say that partnering with us makes them feel proud to work for their business, and that they also learn more about the experience of refugees in the UK too.

As technology and AI increasingly change the way we live and work, we must ensure that everyone has the skills, insights, and opportunity to thrive in the digital economy. We know that innovative partnerships such as these can provide people with real opportunities alongside invaluable skills and certifications. Together with Barclays LifeSkills, LinkedIn and Breaking Barriers we can’t wait to continue supporting refugees to improve their future prospects.

Charles Eales, Social Impact Lead, Microsoft UK

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