Washington State Rolls Out Nation’s Largest Microsoft IT Academy Program

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept.14, 2011 — Microsoft announced today that Washington will deploy the Microsoft IT Academy to each of the state’s 703 high schools, skills centers and tribal schools, making this the largest implementation of its kind in the country. The program will provide the state’s more than 300,000 students with equal access to technology training that will prepare them for the future.

“We’re into the 21st century, and students need the skills they’ll use in college or in the work world,” said Randy Dorn, Washington state superintendent of public instruction. “In a lot of areas today across the state, we’re not doing that. The Microsoft IT Academy fulfills that need — it’s a game changer for students and our state.”

In addition to preparing students for a number of careers or for higher education, Lutz Ziob, general manager of Microsoft Learning, said that another goal of the statewide rollout is to strengthen Washington’s position as a technology hub and attract top companies to the state’s pool of technology talent.

“If we want to continue to benefit as a state, we need to plan for the future,” he said. “This isn’t just about Microsoft, but other industry players as well, like Amazon, Boeing, Expedia, Costco, Starbucks and hundreds of small and medium-sized companies across Washington that will thrive here and plug into our state’s vibrant, growing skillset.”

Preparing Students for the Future

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, by 2018 there will be more than 1.2 million jobs available in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related fields.

Randy Dorn, Washington state superintendent of public instruction.

The Microsoft IT Academy, which currently operates more than 10,000 learning centers in 160 countries worldwide, offers training and certification in Microsoft Office programs such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. It also provides a technical path for students interested in pursuing an IT career, such as database administration or software development. Students can earn certifications such as Microsoft Office Specialist, Microsoft Technology Associate and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist.

“If a student comes out of high school ready for a job or for advanced studies, that’s a huge thing,” said Keith Loeber, group product manager of Microsoft Learning. “Wherever they go in the world — especially when they’re walking into a business environment — those who are Microsoft-certified will have skills on technology that are recognized everywhere.”

Washington’s Statewide Deployment

All of the state’s high schools, skills centers and tribal schools are provided with the most recent software licenses necessary to complete training and earn certifications.

In addition, students can use e-learning that will enable them to learn at their own pace from any computer with an Internet connection. Microsoft provides lesson plans and projects that educators can use to help prepare their students. The program is offered in both English and Spanish.

“When we talk about information technology and digital literacy, we’re adding a fourth basic component to the traditional ‘three Rs’ of reading, writing and arithmetic,” Ziob said. “Digital literacy doesn’t simply prepare students for IT jobs, but it is a necessary component for any kind of job, advanced studies or success in their everyday lives.”

Partnering to Deliver Opportunities

Microsoft partnered with the State of Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to implement the statewide rollout. Both Dorn and Ziob said this kind of alliance between private and public institutions is the best way to reach students badly in need of technology skills that will prepare them for the future.

“More and more educators, decision-makers and public officials realize that, without a strong, effective public-private partnership, we can’t solve this problem,” Ziob said.

Dorn echoed this sentiment, saying the cooperation of businesses, service groups and nonprofits is the best, most cost-effective way to reach students.

“Twenty-five years ago, education did it alone. That’s not how it happens today because there’s too much going on. To make education work, you have to have cooperation,” Dorn said. “When different groups of people are willing to step forward to help students succeed … that’s what truly makes a difference.”

Beyond the Microsoft IT Academy

Lutz Ziob, general manager of Microsoft Learning.

In addition to training opportunities, Microsoft offers complementary programs that help students apply what they have learned to real-world settings. For instance, the Microsoft Student to Business program connects students to job opportunities in their community.

In addition, because this rollout is taking place in the state that is home to Microsoft’s headquarters, combined with the huge presence of thousands of company employees, Washington students will receive the added bonus of EduConnect, a program that supplies one Microsoft employee per high school across Washington as a mentor.

“To have that unique opportunity of having someone from Microsoft talk to students about career options or technology in general — that’s a great thing for students, teachers, the schools and ultimately the State of Washington,” Loeber said.

Giving Educators Flexibility

Although the resources provided are the same for all schools, educators can tailor programs and build curriculum based on their needs. Microsoft simply provides the resources and a flexible learning environment educators can use to do what they do best — teach.

“We don’t dictate what teachers do each day,” Loeber said. “We simply give them the tools that allow them to build a curriculum that suits the needs of their class or even individual students.”

Jim McMurchie is a Microsoft IT Academy instructor at the Puget Sound Skills Center in Burien, Wash., where the Microsoft IT Academy has been available for teachers and students since 2005. McMurchie said the flexible curriculum and the ability to tailor his courses allow him to focus on individual students’ needs. This partnership between students and instructors, he said, is the key to students making progress and acquiring skills necessary for the brightest possible futures.

“We work in partnership with our students, and they know that our first concern is advancing their education and their careers,” McMurchie said. “All schools in the state should embrace the Microsoft IT Academy because it’s going to give them a huge amount of established knowledge.”

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