Microsoft is helping to fill the IT skills gap by training the unemployed, with the launch of a pilot scheme in Liverpool last week.
In conjunction with the Spring Group IT training company, Microsoft is offering unemployed people a three month training "passport" to IT skills courses, ploughing #50,000 into the problem.
Passport holders can attend a training course for #10 rather than the full fee of #115.
Officially opened by local MP Peter Kilfoyle, the initiative is aimed at residents of the Merseyside Pathway area, where unemployment is high.
The passport is available to 500 local benefit claimants as well as Welfare to Work and New Deal participants, and can be used to work towards an RSA Qualification.
The two training centres are based in Liverpool schools where attendees will work through computer-based self-study courses supported by trained staff. Courses will include experience using Microsoft's Windows and Office applications, as well as packages from others vendors, such as Lotus SmartSuite.
The Spring Group, which specialises in IT recruitment and consultancy as well as training, is financing the initial installation of equipment in the schools. Pupils and teachers will use the equipment without charge during school days, while Spring will run training courses during evenings and weekends.
Debbie Walsh, IT skills development manager at Microsoft UK, said Microsoft had widened its remit from training people to manage its own systems.
"Obviously we have an interest in people understanding how to use Microsoft products, but there is a secondary desire to get more people trained in IT (in general)," she explained.
Walsh said the pilot scheme will be evaluated on the number of people who take part and go on to obtain employment. She promised Microsoft would be running more such schemes around the country in the future.
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