Posted by Pamela Passman
Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs
Earlier today while speaking to the annual conference of theNational Association of Workforce Boards in Washington, D.C., I announced that Microsoft is forming a coalition of public, private and non-profit organizations to help our country’s veterans and their spouses get the additional skills they need to succeed in today’s economy.
The initiative is an extension of Elevate America, a program Microsoft launched just over a year ago. Working in partnership with state governments, Elevate America provides free technology training and certification to help workers secure, and retain, 21st century jobs.
The need is particularly acute among former soldiers transitioning to civilian life. Today, nearly 185,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are unemployed, and the unemployment rate among veterans is 20 percent higher than the rest of the population. Our servicemen and women possess strong military and leadership skills, but many lack the formal education, technology training and certification employers seek. There is a great opportunity for the public and private sector to partner to ease the transition for veterans and provide more skilled workers for U.S. employers.
The coalition we are forming will include businesses, veterans groups, workforce agencies, non-profit organizations and community colleges. The coalition will provide not only job training but also placement, counseling and other support services, including childcare and transportation assistance. Our efforts will target members of the armed services and their spouses who are separating from the military and re-integrating into their communities. We will assist both former active-duty soldiers and members of the National Guard and reserves returning to civilian jobs.
As part of our commitment, Microsoft will contribute $2 million in cash and up to $6 million in software to support these programs. We will issue a request for proposals to determine how we will award cash, software and other resources to eligible organizations.
I am delighted that Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is the first member of our coalition. We expect to add many more partners in the coming weeks and months. I look forward to updating you as the initiative gains momentum and creates rich opportunities for our veterans and their spouses.
As I mentioned, today’ announcement builds on our work with Elevate America since launching the program in February 2009. In the past twelve months, Elevate America has distributed over 300,000 training and certification vouchers in 12 states: Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington.
The vouchers are available to all individuals, employed or unemployed, who want to upgrade their technology skills. In the first year, 70 percent of Elevate America vouchers went to unemployed individuals, 60 percent went to women and nearly 40 percent went to workers between the ages of 41 and 55. We are beginning to see these programs help people secure jobs, but battling unemployment is a task that requires time, commitment and resources from every sector of society.
To help mark the one-year anniversary of Elevate America, we have been talking to people across the country who have participated in the program. They provide compelling insights into the day-to-day challenges people are facing, and overcoming, in today’s economy. I encourage you to take some time to hear their stories at the Elevate America Web site, http://www.microsoft.com/elevateamerica.