Sydney, Australia, June 12, 2000 — Microsoft Australia, together with the Australian government, recently launched TRAIN-IT 2000, a key initiative to tackle the shortage of skilled information technology (IT) workers in Australia. As part of the launch, Microsoft Australia also announced a commitment to work closely with the federal and state governments to tackle the IT skills shortage through government task forces and advisory bodies.
When TRAIN-IT 2000 was announced in Sydney, Senator Ian Campbell, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, congratulated Microsoft for its investment in Australia’s future, noting that it is vitally important for industry to play its part to ensure Australia has a highly skilled population to meet the challenges of the information age.
To learn more about the new training program and its implications, PressPass spoke with Microsoft Australia Managing Director Paul Houghton.
PressPass: Can you give us more detail about the announcement?
Paul Houghton: TRAIN-IT 2000 incorporates a significant investment by Microsoft Australia, valued at AUS$6.5 million, to train teachers and students across all education institutions in the country over the next three years through its Authorised Academic Training Program (AATP). We’ve just launched the initiative nationally, and are in the process of rolling it out through state launches.
Another important aspect of TRAIN-IT 2000 is our alliance with the Australian government, on both the federal and state levels, aimed at working together to beat the IT-skills shortage in this country.
PressPass: What prompted Microsoft Australia to make this investment?
Houghton : The IT-skills shortage is a real concern here — in fact, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, recently acknowledged that there is a shortage of 30,000 skilled IT workers in this country.
Understandably, many in the IT industry are looking overseas for suitable employees to fill the gap. This is an issue that concerns everyone here, from the government, to IT vendors like Microsoft, through to the education sector.
In response to this issue, Microsoft developed the TRAIN-IT 2000 initiative, which is a proactive plan to work with the Australian government and education institutions across the country to increase the IT skills of Australian teachers and students, and thereby tackle the IT-skills shortage head-on.
PressPass: Can you tell us more about the elements of TRAIN-IT 2000?
Houghton : TRAIN-IT 2000 essentially incorporates three things: First, a financial investment in training teachers and students; second, a commitment to work with the federal and state governments of Australia, and; third, and most important, the official launch of Microsoft’s main vehicle for increasing the IT skills of students and educators throughout Australia — the Authorised Academic Training Program (AATP).
AATP delivers industry accredited technical training to full-time high school, college, TAFE and university students. This means that when students graduate, they receive accredited qualifications as a Microsoft Certified Professional as well as attaining their school, TAFE or university qualification.
PressPass: How does the IT industry in Australia view Microsoft’s AATP program?
Houghton : It’s interesting that IDC put out new research last year stating that, on average, Australian companies save $1,732 per server per year due to greater productivity and efficiency when they employ MCP accredited staff. The research also shows that within an IT department staff with MCP certification are seen as more productive, and over half of businesses questioned would prefer, or only employ, MCPs.
Clearly, for students taking part in AATP at their school, college, TAFE or university, Microsoft certification offers IT professionals a competitive edge, offering better career opportunities and earning potential.
PressPass: Don’t other vendors in Australia offer similar training courses and certification?
Houghton: They do. The difference is that Microsoft Australia is committing a significant amount of money, training and resources toward implementing AATP in education institutions all over the country during the next three years.
Essentially, this contribution will allow students to take MCP courses for free — courses that would normally cost thousands of dollars. AATP will give students IT qualifications in the most widely used, industry-respected technology today, giving them the tools they need to excel in the IT workplace.
PressPass: How many people will Microsoft be training over the next three years through TRAIN-IT 2000?
Houghton: Microsoft Australia will effectively be training 720 teachers and 18,240 students throughout metropolitan and regional areas of Australia over the next three years. We think this is a significant step.
PressPass: How is Microsoft Australia going to implement this program over such a broad sector and such a large geographical area?
Houghton: Microsoft has set up a dedicated project team to implement TRAIN-IT 2000 throughout the country. This team will work with schools, TAFEs, universities and colleges, as well as peak industry bodies such as the Industry Training Advisory Board and the Boards of Study.
We see the implementation of AATP in education sites around Australia as a phased exercise. The first round of training will start in June, with education institutions able to implement the AATP by July 2000. Currently, we have 16 sites running AATP, and we expect this number to grow significantly over the next few months. We already have a strong expression of interest from many education institutions around the country.
PressPass: Why did the Australian government choose to work so closely with Microsoft on this issue, and how will the relationship work on a grassroots level?
Houghton : Microsoft Australia is recognised not only as an important IT vendor in this country, but as a company that can also provide thought leadership in the areas of IT skills development and the use of technology to empower youth.
Microsoft is working closely with the departments of Education and Training at the state level, and with the Minister for Communication, IT and the Arts at the national level, to implement the AATP in education institutions across the country.
Microsoft is also engaging with specific government task forces dealing with IT skills and education, such as the IT & T Skills Taskforce, the Industry Training Advisory Board and the Boards of Study.
PressPass : Finally, what is Microsoft Australia’s broader vision in the education sector?
Houghton : Microsoft Australia’s vision for a
“connected learning community”
is aimed at making parents, students, education institutions and government departments active partners in the Australian education process.
Microsoft Australia is concerned with far more than just providing students and teachers with access to the latest software. Our vision for a connected learning community also involves empowering youth through technology, creating and supporting an IT infrastructure, providing professional development and training for teachers and students, and working with the education community to build better education solutions.
Microsoft understands the business and education landscapes and the challenges faced by institutions of all sizes and across all sectors. We are able to provide solutions based not only on the latest software, but also on our extensive knowledge and expertise in addressing issues like the IT-skills shortage through TRAIN-IT 2000 and the AATP.