Steve Ballmer & Gov. Sonny Perdue: Elevate America

Remarks by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on Elevate America announcement
Atlanta, Ga.
January 22, 2010

GOV. SONNY PERDUE: Thank you all for coming this morning, and today we’re here to make an exciting announcement to continue some good work that’s already been done, but a partnership that was exciting for us. And it’s an initiative that we believe will provide thousands of Georgians with expanded educational opportunities. And in Georgia we know that connectivity between education, enhanced value and economic development is very, very real.

These are the kind of opportunities that unlock — literally unlock individual potential and success in the new economy, in the new — the way things are done in our country today. So we’re excited about that.

We’re also excited to have a significant giant here in the U.S. economy, CEO Steve Ballmer. He’s chief executive of a small computer company you might have heard about. What’s the name of that, Microsoft I think? (Laughter.) But Steve has come to Georgia because of their investment and involvement in this program that is significant nationwide.

And I want to compliment, I was just complimenting him on the effort of the company. This is a brilliant idea in putting investments into people, that are affiliated with their business. It is absolutely a company fulfilling genuine civic responsibilities of building skill sets in people that can have an opportunity in really erasing the digital divide that exists in America today.

So, we’re excited about this, and a partner that Microsoft will be working here in the state is one that we’re proud of, and probably will be one of those legacy things, Debbie, that doesn’t get talked about too much. But the Work Ready program that you’ve built in Georgia, helping people in the retraining, I think will become more and more renown as a real lifeline for people.

Over the last three years, our Georgia Work Ready program has served as an invaluable tool to improve the core job skills, to get those certified, to present to employers and get a leg up on the competition in the job search.

So, we’ve placed a special focus on preparing men and women for today’s information-based workplace, and our Work Ready basic computer literacy courses provided unemployed Georgians with fundamental technology skills and skills gap training. And this just fits like a glove, Steve, in this effort that we’ve begun here, and what you all are offering today.

Today, Georgia Work Ready, along with Microsoft, builds on that emphasis to instill and to improve technology skills.

And Steve is joining me here today to announce that Georgia and Microsoft are combining efforts to provide free online technology training to Georgia citizens, looking for ways to improve their skills and distinguish themselves in that job search.

This is a very unique public-private partnership between Microsoft’s program called Elevate America, again a great term, and Georgia’s Work Ready program, that will distribute almost 30,000 — 25,000 — I don’t know why we couldn’t reach 30, but it’s 25,000 —

STEVE BALLMER: Thirty thousand!

GOV. SONNY PERDUE: Thirty thousand! (Laughter, applause.)

STEVE BALLMER: I’m sure I’ve got somebody in trouble, but we’ll make that happen, Governor.

GOV. SONNY PERDUE: Thirty thousand certificates and vouchers for training. These available courses not only range from the basics in technology literacy to intermediate and then advanced level technology skills training.

And the great part is, gratefully to Microsoft, that this training comes at no cost for those participants.

Another great part of this endeavor is how simple it is for the users. Vouchers will be distributed through our Work Ready program, our Web site, which is, and for those out there interested you go to the Web site, complete a short application, and the voucher will be sent to you electronically.

So, I hope you can tell that I’m excited. This is the kind of energy that we need and why we need jobs here, and helping people to get sustainable and jobs and technical jobs that will carry them through a career.

It’s a perfect complement, as I told you, Steve, to what we were trying to do in our Work Ready program already, and it just fits like a hand in glove here for us. This is also an opportunity for Microsoft and Georgia to show that we are dedicated to building a skilled, talented, ready-to-go-to-work workforce out there.

So this partnership is great news for Georgia, and we couldn’t ask for a better partner in this endeavor than our friends at Microsoft, and I want to thank Steve Ballmer and his team for helping us and creating this program that we could participate in.

With that in mind, I want to introduce to you now a partner, our Georgia partner, a tech pioneer, the chief executive of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer. (Applause.)

STEVE BALLMER: Well, I want to first say very much thanks to the governor, thanks for his time today, and his leadership, and promoting economic growth in the Work Ready program.

A key statistic that’s on our minds, and probably should be on all of our minds as we think about the situation with jobs in the country today, most estimates would say about 50 percent of jobs today in the United States require some kind of computer literacy. And yet we think that will be up close to 75 percent over the course of the next five years or so.

So computer literacy is absolutely a job one issue for jobs, and frankly from our perspective it’s not just a societal issue; if we want to continue to see the high tech industry flourish, we need to have a willing and ready workforce to take advantage of those technologies.

If you couple that with the fact that our industry looks like it will continue to be able to generate jobs — our industry research group, IDC, actually thinks there could be up to 10,000 new jobs in the high tech industry itself created in Georgia over the course of the next five years, which is really quite something. If you put those two things — and it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about basic computer literacy on up to sophisticated training, we need to get people trained, and frankly need to get them certified, so that employers actually know and can expect.

The target of our Elevate America program, in conjunction with Work Ready, is to try to get 30,000 Georgians — (laughter) — that was one or two why we — little background that says 25,900 — 30,000 Georgians trained, and then certified and ready to go to work in jobs that require computer literacy, and we think that’s important, and that’s, as I say, at all levels.

Microsoft has about 900 business partners. These are independent, high-tech companies operating here in Georgia, that literally themselves employ thousands of people, and will be growing, let alone the many, many people who work in IT or just work with computer tools inside businesses here in Georgia.

Elevate America overall, we’re trying to get to about 2 million Americans, and it kind of gives you a sense. It’s a couple of percent roughly of the U.S. workforce that we’re trying to reach through this, but that’s a couple percent makes a big difference that we’re talking about getting back into employment, and the folks who need to step up.

So, it’s going to take a lot of public-private partnerships, not just with our company and the state of Georgia, but the state of Georgia and many others, and we’re pleased that we’ve been so welcomed and so well received by the Work Ready folks and by the governor. We’re certainly rolling up our sleeves, and hopefully all of this can help generate the kind of jobs that we all know we need here in the country.

So, thank you very much, Governor.

GOV. SONNY PERDUE: Thank you, Steve. (Applause.)

I want to thank you personally. Your people have been a joy to work with, and your flexibility in this, and enabling the gold standard of Microsoft certification to be married with our Georgia Work Ready certification I think will be a valuable commodity to have, so thank you very much.

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