Seattle-Area Residents Will Have Better Access to Technology Training Thanks to Microsoft Grant

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 31, 2006 – In the information-based economy of today, a skilled, educated workforce is the most critical factor for productivity. Technology skills and digital literacy have become essential tools for employment and economic growth. Yet millions of people around the world still face the challenge of how and where to acquire these skills.

As part of its ongoing effort to support technology skills education for the U.S. work force, the Microsoft Unlimited Potential program has donated more than US$440,000 in cash, software, and teaching materials to the Workforce Development Council (WDC) of Seattle-King County and WorkSource employment centers across Washington state. This donation allows WorkSource “one-stop” employment centers to offer courses utilizing Microsoft Unlimited Potential curriculum to jobseekers who want to improve their workforce readiness through technology skills training. It will also allow the WDC and WorkSource to expand Unlimited Potential to additional sites and customers in Seattle-King County through added instructor staff.

Pamela Passman, Vice President, Microsoft Global Corporate Affairs

“Microsoft deeply values its partnership with the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County and we appreciate their efforts to keep America competitive in today’s economy,” says Pamela Passman, vice president of Global Corporate Affairs at Microsoft.

The WDC of Seattle-King County played a valuable role in supporting the rollout of Unlimited Potential training curriculum to public “one-stop” employment centers across the nation. Microsoft approached the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., to offer the Unlimited Potential program at one-stop centers. Taking a leadership role, the WDC of Seattle-King County agreed to oversee the program’s testing in Microsoft’s own backyard: WorkSource, the one-stop system in Washington State.

With a large number of local job seekers seeking to acquire basic computer literacy or to upgrade existing computer skills, the WDC of Seattle-King County took the critical step forward by expanding their technology skills training programs and simultaneously assisting Microsoft in expanding the pilot program and implementing Unlimited Potential curriculum in 19 training sites across the state. Since then, more than 1,500 adults have benefited from the program, a resounding affirmation of its success.

Michelle Hartman, who was laid off from a data entry job, completed four of Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential courses (covering Microsoft Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint) at WorkSource Renton (overseen by the WDC of Seattle–King County). “I had very limited knowledge of these programs, and was looking to be more marketable,” says Hartman, 63. As she went through the Unlimited Potential program, she started getting calls for job interviews and was subsequently offered a higher-paying job as a receptionist and office administrator for a Georgetown design company. “They were very impressed with all the programs I knew,” Hartman says.

“The classes were a marvelous opportunity, one that I wouldn’t have been able to afford on my own,” said Hartman. “Today I have a second lease on life and I owe it to WorkSource and Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential program!”

Due to the success of the WDC’s pilot project, Microsoft announced donations of $3.5 million in cash and software over two years to provide support through the Unlimited Potential program in public “one-stop” employment centers across the U.S.

“At the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, we are proud of our longstanding relationship with Microsoft and committed to working together to bridge the digital divide,” says Kris Stadelman, the council’s CEO. “By building on our existing partnership, and using tools like the Unlimited Potential curriculum, we look forward to opening new avenues for knowledge-creation and workforce development.”

Microsoft has made a deliberate effort to foster initiatives that facilitate digital literacy through its Unlimited Potential program. Through a variety of commercial and philanthropic programs, Microsoft and its partners have been working toward increasing worldwide computer literacy by addressing the need for technology skills training. Through the Microsoft Unlimited Potential program, the company has made a corporate commitment to digital inclusion and economic opportunity, and has contributed nearly $200 million in cash, software, curricula and technology expertise to nonprofit organizations around the world over the last three years toward a goal of providing the benefits of technology to a quarter of a billion people worldwide by 2010.

The Unlimited Potential curriculum provides the foundation for teaching basic to intermediate technology skills in a hands-on manner. Lessons are offered in 22 languages through eight separate courses. Microsoft designed the curriculum to be donated to community centers around the world where it could be used to educate adults for whom the lack of computer skills is a barrier to work and economic prosperity.

The curriculum, available to eligible non-profit and government organizations, stands out because of its flexibility and easy adaptability. The curriculum culminates in a certificate test and allows students who pass the test to print out a personalized certificate.

“Microsoft’s investments to the community highlight its mission of working to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential,” Passman says. “I am encouraged today, through this partnership and others like it, that our community has been given a great advantage in meeting this goal.”

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