Microsoft's latest endeavor isn't about selling products--or so the company claims. On Sunday, Microsoft announced "Elevate America," a free or low-cost tech certification program which will provide up to 2 million people over the next three years with the skills needed to compete for jobs in a crippling economic meltdown.
Information on Elevate American is already available online, and more information will be unveiled in partnership with a few state governments, including New York, Florida, and Washington. The Web site that's now available informs individuals of what skills are necessary to get out of the unemployment line, and offers assistance in the form of Microsoft application training, e-mail composition, and résumé building. Microsoft will offer 1 million free training vouchers, too, but there's no word yet how those will be distributed.
More than half of today's jobs require tech skills of some sort, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in the next ten years, that number will reach 77 percent. It's a tech-based world, folks, and Microsoft wants to be your guiding hand.
Of course, you could view this endeavor cynically and wonder what Microsoft's true intentions are. Is Microsoft just trying to get more people to use Vista? Maybe what it really wants is to perpetuate its quasi-monopoly by ensuring people are trained in only Microsoft products so they can never become irrelevant. Or--gasp!--maybe Microsoft is just doing a good thing. Either way, I wouldn't expect to get a job at Microsoft with these skills--remember: the company is going through layoffs.
With our economy in the toilet, and more and more people looking for some way to secure their future, Microsoft's Elevate America really does come at a great time. Best case scenario, it could live up to its name and pull at least a couple million citizens out of the dumps and into a rewarding, sustainable career.