Microsoft has launched a new initiative designed to provide millions of Americans with technology training to help them keep up with the demands of today's job market, particularly in the face of the current economic climate.
Unemployment rates are soaring due to mass lay-offs, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than half of today's jobs require some technology skills, rising to 77 per cent in the next decade. Microsoft sees basic technology expertise as a vital part of almost everyone's skill set.
The Elevate America programme aims to train up to two million people over the next three years through two main platforms, one available immediately and one provided in partnership with state governments including those of Florida, New York and Washington.
"Millions of Americans don't have the technology skills needed in today's economy. Through Elevate America, we want to help workers get the skills they need to succeed," said Pamela Passman, corporate vice president of Microsoft Global Corporate Affairs.
"We are also providing a full range of workforce development resources for state and local governments so they can offer specialised training for their workers."
The first platform will be offered through a new web site which lays out the types of technical skills people will need for the jobs, along with entrepreneurial opportunities and access to several Microsoft online training programmes. These include basic tutorials such as how to use the internet, send email and create a CV, through to more advanced tuition on using specific Microsoft applications.
The second platform will see Microsoft partnering with state and local governments to provide a broader range of training programmes and certification exams to citizens. Florida, New York and Washington will be the first states to provide Elevate America to residents.
"We have worked with Microsoft for years in Miami to bring technology training to underserved populations," said Florida governor Charlie Crist. " Now, with Elevate America, we have the opportunity to bring these important skills to even more people, at a time when they are needed more than ever."
Microsoft will also provide one million Microsoft Learning vouchers for free access to Microsoft eLearning courses and some of its certification exams. These include basic IT training resources, as well as intermediate online and instructor-led courses.
The initiative will also offer vouchers for Microsoft eLearning course collections and certification exams, grants of cash and software to community partners to build in-classroom training capacity, and discounted membership rates for institutions participating in the Microsoft IT Academy programme.
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