Facebook is planning to teach digital skills to a million Europeans and small business owners on the Old Continent in the next several years, the Menlo Park, California-based social media giant said Sunday. The effort was introduced as an extension of the Facebook Community Boost initiative which the company debuted in the United States last November with an identical goal – helping people learn digital skills so that they remain competitive in the contemporary job market. The move is centered on opening new community hubs in Spain, Italy, and Poland which will be seeking to train at least a million people by the end of 2020. As part of the same endeavor, the firm's artificial intelligence research lab in France will be committing €10 million ($12.25 million) to fostering innovation in the country, the company said, clarifying that the money will be used for quadrupling the number of Ph.D. fellows of Facebook AI Research Paris to 40. The funds will also allow for additional student scholarships, open datasets, and ten servers meant to support public educational institutions in France. Likewise, the company is doubling down on hiring in the country and is planning to add 30 more engineers and researchers to its already 30-strong team in France.
The new community hubs will be managed in collaboration with local organizations and will specifically seek to help "underrepresented groups," being modeled after the firm's Berlin, Germany-based Digitales Lernzentrum (Digital Learning Center) which started operating in 2017. Elderly and refugees will be specifically targeted by the hubs so as to find their feet in today's job market. Digital adoption company Freeformers partnered with Facebook on the endeavor, vowing to help it train 300,000 people in the aforementioned countries and the United Kingdom by early 2020. The majority of trainees will learn about digital skills online, while 75,000 of them will be trained in person. The curriculum will span everything from using digital services such as online banking to coding, depending on the exact background of individual participants.
While training people to become more desirable workers is the main goal of the initiative, Facebook also sees its digital skills push as a method of helping innovators realize their ideas, whether by learning new skills or being provided with additional resources required to put their plans into motion. The Community Boost EU program may hence be responsible for greenlighting more direct investments into European startups but no immediate plans on that front have been announced by the company. The move is just the latest step in Facebook's endeavor to help people find their bearings in the contemporary job market, with the firm not being unique in its efforts to do so; Google is presently promoting similar initiatives, with its CEO publicly calling for the global society to rethink jobs.