In the news yesterday Microsoft announced a new program called Elevate America. The program consists of a number of initiatives to help workers to improve their IT skills. Through the new Web portal and an upcoming programs in conjunction with government agencies, Microsoft hopes to add their take to the new economic stimulus package.
The economic woes of the nation, and the world are just now coming into focus, and with unemployment at an all time high, companies are going to have to step it up to re-energize both the economy and the workforce. Microsoft launched a new website where users can get initial training and eventually certification in several key Microsoft application areas. Whether the move is just good PR or a genuine attempt to help under-skilled workers, the news is none the less a boost.
Elevate America offers not only better tools for workers to get training, but according to Microsoft’s press, integrates the company’s efforts with state and local efforts along the same lines. We all give Microsoft a fairly hard time, as we do other large corporations, but in this instance, at least they are leading the way.
There are over 3.6 million people who have lost their jobs since the recession began in 2007. Most of these layoffs have taken place in the last 3 months, and there are no guarantees that there will not be more. Microsoft just announced plans to lay off 5,000 or its own employees, an irony made more pungent by the fact that many of them are receiving some of the same training offered by Elevate America. According to Microsoft VP for Corporate Affairs, Pamela Passman, via a story on CNET:
“Millions of individuals 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.”
Besides the obvious benefits of training and getting certified, Elevate America is integrated its program to interface with government agencies across the US. beginning with Washington, New York and Florida. Elevate America will also provide up to 2 million people over the next three years with the technology training needed to succeed in the new economy. For workers who need upgraded skill sets, and even current IT professionals, the new website provides a centralized platform for discovering what is available from Microsoft. Their knowledge base and other programs are even more extensive than even I imagined.
The new program is already coming under some criticism given that training more people in Microsoft’s applications, is as much good for them as it is for displaced workers. Still, though this is rather obvious. Microsoft is the largest manufacturer of software in the world, and their utilization by other businesses is massive. Whether the news is straight “pitch” or not, I see no down side for workers, especially those with limited technical skill. Anything that elevates THE American people, elevates America. In this sense alone, Microsoft hit a grand slam yesterday with this news – from any perspective.