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Microsoft launched a new program this week called Elevate America that aims to provide technology training to as many as 2 million people during the next three years, often with free training that until now would have cost budding IT and information workers money.
As part of the program, Microsoft will work with state and local agencies, partners, nonprofits, and community organizations to identify people interested in acquiring Microsoft certifications or taking basic technology training courses in class or online. The company also will maintain a Web site where people can get started with their training.
Microsoft had been working on this program for years with pilots like Elevate Miami in Florida, but according to Akhtar Badshah, Microsoft's senior director of global community affairs, the economic crisis pushed Microsoft to execute now with its broader strategy. "The economy made it important to get out there and not to wait," he said. "There's an incentive for state and local agencies to start offering services with the stimulus package, so it's the right time to do it."
Badshah says interest in Microsoft training services has increased steadily over the last year, but Microsoft believes even more people have decided not to take part in training because of the associated costs. The program is in part aimed at identifying those people and bringing them into the fold to prepare them for jobs that require some technical know-how.
Microsoft offers any number of training programs online, from basic computer skills training to more advanced training in software development and software architecture. Elevate America will offer 1 million vouchers for online coursework that isn't currently free. The state and local partnerships Microsoft is forming will also help determine demand for Microsoft's paid programs and loop in Microsoft partners to come up with low-cost offerings to sell to people who are interested. So far, Microsoft is working with eight states and hopes to branch out to many more.
Of course, this isn't an entirely altruistic initiative. Microsoft will get some benefit out of these programs as well. The company hopes that the people it trains will remember where they got their training and continue to use Microsoft software. Badshah pointed to one IDC study that Microsoft's ecosystem employed about 40% of all the people working in the IT industry as of 2007.
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