How Grab and Microsoft Are Helping Bridge Southeast Asia’s Tech Skills Gap

A Grab ridding his motorcycle.
Grab and Microsoft started the campaign to help bridge the tech skills gap in Southeast Asia in 2019. Photo credit: Courtesy of Grab

This article is published in collaboration with Grab.

Grab and Microsoft are pressing ahead with their campaign to bridge the tech skills gap in Southeast Asia, this time bringing the initiative to Singapore.

The two companies have organized three training and development programs in Singapore aimed at equipping driver- and delivery-partners and students with digital skills to help them land technology-related job and traineeship opportunities. The program aims to train up to 5,000 driver and delivery-partners and 250 tertiary students by the end of 2021.

Free access

Grab driver- and delivery-partners interested to improve their digital knowledge will be given free access to Microsoft’s e-learning digital literacy modules via GrabAcademy, an online training platform within the Grab driver app. Those keen on software development careers can also sign up for an 8-month train-and-place program. There is also a separate program to equip tertiary students with the right skill set to join the tech sector after graduation. The students will also learn about artificial intelligence and get first-hand experience on how it can be applied in real-world scenarios.

One of the courses on offer, “Introduction to Digital Literacy,” consists of six different modules, covering basic computing and digital skills content such as internet usage, online productivity and communications tools, online security and safety, and others.

The idea is to equip beneficiaries with tech skills they may leverage to improve their lives. In a 2019 survey of 3,000 Grab Singapore driver-partners, more than 70% indicated that they planned to stop driving after 2 years. Additionally, one in two are willing to take part in career-related training.

Tech for good partnership

Grab and Microsoft partnered in 2019 to help Southeast Asia bridge the digital gap amidst the region’s accelerated efforts in building a digital-first economy. Under the deal, they agreed to equip beneficiaries with technology skills through training, reskilling, and career development support.

The program was initially rolled out in Indonesia and Viet Nam, with over 439,600 certifications issued to Grab’s partners in both markets since February 2020. 

Franz Xavier, a Grab driver-partner in Indonesia who had completed his training and received his certification said, “I like to take part in the GrabAcademy training because I want to get information about new program and knowledge about digital skills. This program is really useful to help me develop my skills. My goal is to open an online business, so this training is really useful.”

Regional roll-out

The program was rolled out in Singapore in October, and will further expand to driver- and delivery-partners in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand by mid-2021.

Grab Singapore Managing Director Yee Wee Tang noted that 2020 has accelerated the adoption of digital services. “With more businesses looking to further their digitalization journeys, the demand for talents with relevant digital skills will increase. As the leading technology player in the region, we have a role to play to improve digital inclusiveness and literacy in the communities we serve, as well as create more pathways for our driver and delivery-partners who are keen to capture these opportunities. We are pleased to be working closely with Microsoft to be delivering these programs that will provide more holistic training support for participants—be it our partners, or the next generation in Singapore.”

COVID-19 economy skills

Dr. Daiana Beitler, Philanthropies Lead at Microsoft Asia, said closing the skills gap has become more urgent due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. “What we seek to achieve here builds on our ambition to help 25 million people worldwide acquire new digital skills needed for the COVID-19 economy.” 
The digital skills training programs leverage on the expertise of both Grab and Microsoft to deliver tailored learning experiences for driver- and delivery-partners—regardless of their digital literacy levels, with a goal to improve the beneficiaries’ skills and employability.

The partnership contributes to Grab’s social impact goals, Grab for Good, which brings digital literacy and better inclusion to three million people in Southeast Asia through partnerships with governments, private companies, and non-profit organizations. The program also entails training 20,000 students across the region by 2025.

Software development

In Singapore, there is a new training program for individuals interested in software development roles. The program was built on instructional methodology developed by Generation Singapore, a nonprofit founded in 2014 by McKinsey & Company to help bridge the skills gap. Conducted by Temasek Polytechnic, the program is open to the public and is part of the SGUnited Skills training scheme developed with industry partners.

Trainees will undergo an 8-month coursework where they will pick up technical skills including computer science fundamentals, web development, Java programming, relational databases, and UI/UX concepts. They will also be trained in simulated workplace scenarios to hone their soft skills, which include critical thinking and interpersonal skills. During the course period, trainees will also have access to Microsoft and LinkedIn online learning pathways. At the end of the course, they will receive certification and be matched and invited to interview for suitable opportunities, including software developer roles at Grab.

Lau Kok Tiong, 43, a Grab driver-partner in Singapore who had signed up for the training, said: “I’ve always had an interest in the tech industry, but never had the opportunity to sign myself up for an upskilling course. I’m thankful that Grab has presented this training program at such an opportune time. I’m excited to learn from the experts, and hope that this will equip me with the right skills to make my mid-career switch into the tech industry.”
Beitler noted that in the last 3 months, close to 83,000 learners from Singapore enrolled in the modules, with software development among the most in demand. “While this has been encouraging, we need to be relentless in our efforts to drive greater societal progress and help improve the lives of people in Singapore by advancing their capabilities and expertise.”