Empowering our workforce of the future

Maia Dua is a remarkable 17-year old student who wanted to make a difference for people who are blind or visually impaired. After discovering that it costs around $50,000 to train and pair a guide dog with the right person, she set out to create an alternative for those who can’t afford the high cost, or are allergic to canines. Her solution? A “seeing eye-dog” robot that costs about $600. As a student in WE are One, a WE Schools action campaign, Maia learned the skills to create a seeing-eye robot with ultrasonic sensors to help people who are blind or have low vision be aware of their surroundings. She developed the prototype in four days.

I’m excited to take the stage with Maia at the upcoming WE Day UN in New York’s Theater at Madison Square Garden on September 20 to showcase her story and celebrate her innovation. I love so many things about it. Maia’s journey demonstrates how our workforce of the future can be empowered with digital skills to create economic opportunity for themselves and their community—through doing good. I also love that this is a story of a young woman immersing herself in the field known as STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—a field where women have been so under-represented. It’s absolutely vital to get more girls and women into STEM so they can bring more diverse ideas to the field and be equipped with earning power to help close the gender pay gap.

High school student Maia Dua, and Toni Townes Whitley getting ready to hit the stage to inspire 6000 students to pursue a future on STEM.

What is WE Day? It’s a celebration of young people who are making a positive difference in in their communities and the world through acts of service. Students earn their way to WE Day by taking one local and one global action through WE Schools, a yearlong educational program that engages and empowers young people to become compassionate leaders and active citizens. Through their engagement, students develop leadership skills needed to succeed academically, in the workplace, and as active citizens.

I’m incredibly proud that Microsoft is a partner and supporter of WE, whose work so closely aligns with Microsoft’s mission of empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Through programs like WE Schools, students gain the inspiration and skills they need to create a positive economic and societal impact. Whether it’s soft skills like collaboration, communication, and leadership that they gain through the service learning programs or digital skills that they learn through our WE are One action campaign, students are equipped with tools that can help them get and create jobs by developing solutions for local and global challenges. In other words, they’re empowered to create both economic growth and positive change in the world.

Our partnership with WE is one of the many ways that we’re working to empower individuals, organizations, and businesses to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to our involvement with WE Schools and WE Day, we’re helping the WE organization digitally transform so it can scale its efforts and have even greater impact.

It’s vital that we take action now to skill the next-generation workforce to further SDG goal number eight, decent work and economic growth. To learn why it’s so important, what Microsoft is doing to enable people to get jobs, create new ventures, and better their communities, and how you can help, check out the eBook: Empowering a Future-Ready Workforce.