SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft is tossing lifelines to people in the United States lacking technology skills needed to win jobs in the Internet Age.
Microsoft teamed with political leaders in a set of US states to launch an Elevate America initiative expected to provide online and real world technology training to as many as two million people during the next three years.
"Millions of Americans don't have the technology skills needed in today's economy," said Pamela Passman, Microsoft corporate vice president of global corporate affairs.
"We want to help workers get the skills they need to succeed."
For years Microsoft has worked with businesses and community-based organizations to promote information technology (IT) education.
The decision to ramp-up those efforts this week with an Elevate America program is a "response to the current economic crisis," Microsoft said.
The initiative is designed to provide state and local governments tools and resources for "no-cost or low-cost technology skills training to help get people back to work," according to Passman.
Microsoft has information about marketable technology skills and how to acquire them available online at http://www.microsoft.com/ElevateAmerica.
The Web site provides access to Microsoft online training programs ranging from basics such as using Internet, sending email and creating resumes to handling more advanced software programs.
Florida, New York and Washington are the first US states to partner with Microsoft to offer in-depth technology programs, including some with the potential to result in certifications of training.
"At the federal, state and local level, leaders are working together to help start the engine of economic growth," said Washington Governor Chris Gregoire.
"The private sector provides much of the spark needed to jump-start that engine."
Florida governor Charlie Crist cites a successful Elevate Miami program that the state and Microsoft have collaborated on for several years as proof the approach is effective.
"We have worked with Microsoft for years in Miami to bring technology training to underserved populations," Crist said.
"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."
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that half of the jobs available today require at least some technology training and that the figure will rise to 77 percent during the coming decade.
"It's not just scientists and engineers that need technical skills," Passman said. "Jobs in every industry at every level need basic proficiency with computers and other digital technologies."
An economic stimulus bill recently signed by US president Barack Obama will provide federal support for sharpening the technical edge of the US workforce, but government "cannot and should not do it all," Passman said.
"It is essential that the private sector and government work together in partnership to strengthen America's workforce," she added.
Microsoft is providing a million vouchers for free access to online "eLearning" courses and to wave costs of exams needed to be certified as proficient with certain of the US software giant's tools.
Microsoft is also providing money and software community groups can use to build in-classroom programs.
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