At a time when more and more Virginians are looking for work, the state has partnered with Microsoft to provide free technology training to some of the unemployed.
Gov. Tim Kaine said yesterday in a press conference that Microsoft is giving the state 11,250 vouchers for free training or certification testing for the company’s software products.
Classes can cost upward of $350, and a certification test runs about $125.
“This partnership will provide thousands of Virginians with the technical skills they need to obtain and sustain employment when the economy recovers,” Kaine said.
The software giant will grant Virginia 5,000 vouchers for online training courses for Microsoft Office products, such as Windows Vista, Office or Excel. Another 5,000 vouchers can be used for a certification exam, which proves to an employer that the jobseeker is skilled in a particular program.
“You can take the Microsoft certification to Oregon or Kazakhstan and it still means something,” Kaine said during his speech at the Capital Region Workforce Center at Goodwill Industries.
An additional 1,250 vouchers will be provided for advanced training for community college students in technology-orientated career track programs.
Microsoft made the offer to states at last year’s meeting of the National Governor’s Association.
After Microsoft pitched their Elevate America program at a conference panel, the company challenged the governors in the room to take them up on their offer.
“The governor whips around, points his finger at me and says, ‘Take care of it, Danny,’” said Daniel LeBlanc, Kaine’s senior adviser on workforce development.
More than a year later, Virginia has become the second state, after Microsoft’s home state of Washington, to accept the vouchers.
Kaine ceremoniously awarded the first voucher to Eddie Pickering, who was laid off as a staff specialist for National Nurses Service when the company closed its Richmond office in May. Pickering had just obtained his master’s in human resource management from the University of Richmond.
Pickering said the certification would be one more tool in his job-search toolbox.
“It’s incredible competitive to apply for a job now,” Pickering said. “You are applying against a lot of qualified people.”
The vouchers will be distributed primarily through the Virginia Community College System.
Glenn Dubois, chancellor of the VCCS, said more than 22,000 people have enrolled in community college in the past two years.
“Virginia’s community colleges form a natural network for partnering with Microsoft to provide the technology training individuals need to gain a competitive edge,” DuBois said.
Demand is also up for career assistance though the Goodwill’s workforce center, according to Charles Layman, president and CEO of the Richmond Goodwill. In 2007, Layman said, they had 10,500 requests for service. In 2008, they had 17,000. This year, they have already logged 12,250 requests. The center is on Midlothian Turnpike in Southside Richmond.
Microsoft certification exams are administered by Prometric, an independent testing organization. E-learning courses cost between $14.99 and $349. A few free courses are offered as well.
Microsoft is planning to give away 1 million vouchers nationwide through their Elevate America program.
Al Harris covers government for BizSense. Please send story tips to [email protected]
This is a great program to help those seeking career development, especially during a recession. I work for a company that represents Certiport, a major supplier of Microsoft Office certification exams. (They’ve donated $30 MILLION of these exams to the Elevate America program.) They’ve begun posting a series on their blog called “Elevate Doug,” where you can follow a real person through this certification process, and see what it’s like. The author’s rather humorous, too (no, it’s not me): http://certiport.typepad.com/certiblog/2009/06/from-elevate-america-to-elevating-doug.html
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