Taiwan’s high youth unemployment rate is a cause for worry for many, especially after it hit 14.1 percent in August. Microsoft Taiwan’s YouthSpark launch event in October came at the right time. The event promoted free programmes for youth to acquire skills that the market demands, and reinforced its long-term message about how the strategic use of technology skills helps job creation. At the same time, it marked Microsoft Taiwan’s decade-long efforts in skills training for youth and the first-year anniversary of YouthSpark.

The event showcased the results achieved by Microsoft Taiwan’s flagship youth-related projects—the student internship programme, Imagine Cup competition and the Partners in Learning (PiL) programme—best embodied by the participants who spoke at the event. Elementary school teacher Mei-hui Chang, winner of Microsoft’s Creative Teacher Competition for three consecutive years, has been able to join the PiL Global Forum in different countries. “Through the competition, I learned to better use technology tools to design my teaching plan and to initiate more creative teaching methods,” she said.

The YouthSpark launch was attended by Minister without Portfolio Joyce Feng Yen, contemporary novelist Tom Wang and the visiting Microsoft team that included Senior Director of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Dr Akhtar Badshah; Senior Program Manager of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Yvonne Thomas; and Microsoft Vice President, General Manager of Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), Microsoft Greater China Region, Dr David Chen.

 Akhtar meeting with the micro-entrepreneurs from YouthSpark’s ‘Build the Future’ programme

Two high-level government meetings were held in conjunction with the launch. Feng, who is currently leading the country’s Youth Employability Project, one of the Cabinet’s Top Four Policy Priorities, expressed great interest in continuing to partner with Microsoft. In addition, Jason Hu, Mayor of Taichung City, expressed a particular interest in collaboration opportunities related to the PiL programme.

A roundtable discussion was also held at National Chung Hsing University (NCHU) in Taichung, where best practices and ideas about youth entrepreneurship and employability were exchanged. At the event, Akhtar shared how YouthSpark has provided young people with various opportunities and resources in these two areas.

 The President of NCHU, professors from Department of Business, students from various majors, and Microsoft Certificate partners at the YouthSpark roundtable session in NCHU

Akhtar also met entrepreneurs from YouthSpark’s ’Build the Future’ programme, which has aided students from rural areas to use social media, online marketing and e-commerce skills to market their products. He also gathered ideas from the participants to improve this programme. Finally, Akhtar met students from Taiwan’s student internship programme to learn about their experiences and their subsequent journeys.

“Our youth are the future of Taiwan; they have the potential to compete with others around the world, and the number of awards won by Taiwanese students in the various competitions held by Microsoft is the best evidence of that. Unlocking the abilities of young people is the key to bettering Taiwan,” said Vincent Shih, General Manager, LCA, Microsoft Taiwan.