Microsoft stayed true to its message of empowerment by opening its doors to two charities and showcasing the diversity and breadth of opportunities, skills development, and a surprising amount of swings on offer at its UK campus. YouthSpark, an initiative to empower students and young people in STEM careers hosted the charities YMCA Reading and Step by Step. Both organisations support young people by empowering them to identify and build the skills needed to fulfil their potential, something very close to the ethos we all share at Microsoft.
The group of 11 were shown the opportunities Microsoft offers and had the chance to talk to apprentices and interns who shared their experiences.
They took a tour around Microsoft, learnt about the different areas of operation, including the slightly more important parts of business such as ‘The Connection’ (where selfies on swings were the name of the game) and the Xbox/games area (Xbox, a quick game of pool, and selfies with Master Chief) which was quickly proclaimed ‘the best room I have ever been in’!
After talking about how Microsoft aims to empower people to achieve more, and showing inspiring innovations such as Project Emma, a competition was held to futureproof an everyday item.
The winner was an internet connected TARDIS-like fridge that did everything from play music to unlock only with facial recognition. Other entries included an IoT-enabled bed that folded up to the size of a credit card, a hydroxide powered oven and a multi-use accessible dining table.
“I didn’t think Microsoft would be like this at all,” said James McGrath from the YMCA. “It’s great that it’s so open, supportive, and friendly.”
Having charities participate in the YouthSpark event was a first, and was championed by Microsoft employee, Victoria Oakes (Storytelling Lead):
“Here at Microsoft, we are encouraged to make a difference and empower people to achieve more. Finding your purpose is really important, no matter where you work and if you have an employer that supports this ethos, it has a positive effect on employees and society. As a trustee at a local homeless charity, and mentor at the Princes Trust, I am excited when people at Microsoft and beyond want to do the same and am an advocate in these types of ‘side projects’. We hope this type of initiative inspires others to use their skills or positions to make a difference, wherever they can. This type of opportunity for young people can really make a difference.”
There also was a micro:bit challenge, where they got a taste for coding by creating games. There was also a discussion on the opportunities interns and apprentices have, where many of the guests were pleased to find out that the stereotypes they had of interns wasn’t part of the culture here.
“We’re given our own responsibilities and we’re treated exactly like every other employee,” said Pia, Global Resource Co-ordinator. “I have also become an ambassador, running the DigiGirlz STEM outreach in the UK and getting involved in other areas of the business as well as my normal day-to-day role.”
The charities were mostly interested in the experiences of the apprentices and interns as well as the opportunities on offer for young adults.
“You don’t have to be the most technically minded person,” Georgia, Technical Account Manager intern said. “As long as you have the passion, the drive, and are easy going you will learn the skills you need and find your place here.”
The day ended very optimistically with many of the young adults interested a future at Microsoft.
“I’ll definitely be applying,” said Chantelle King, from Step by Step. “Talking to the interns and apprentices has been great.”
Stephen Ritchie, general manager for the YMCA Reading thanked the YouthSpark team for the day “You’re all great role models for young people. It’s great to be able to come here and see Microsoft and see how open you are and how it all works.”
Take a look at our Digital Skills website for resources you can use to inspire young people to pursue STEM careers.