DC, Microsoft alliance focuses on workforce of the future

The District of Columbia city government has formed a strategic alliance with Microsoft that will increase technology access and computer-skills training for District residents, as well as bolster professional development for teachers and broaden access to science, technology, engineering and math opportunities for students.

Microsoft also will provide significant partner support and engagement as well as $100,000 in business-development resources to 10 local Certified Business Enterprises.

The D.C-based companies will receive access to Microsoft product groups, technical training, sales-pipeline support, marketing strategy and material development services, D.C. and Microsoft officials said.

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As part of the digital alliance, the D.C. Department of Employment Services will provide training on basic technology tools to help participating residents develop digital skills required for many entry-level jobs. The department will identify candidates with gaps in digital literacy and work to close those gaps by exposing residents to digital basics through Microsoft’s Digital Literacy Curriculum.

The training will not be like a Microsoft certification program, Fred Humphries, Microsoft’s vice president of U.S. Government Affairs, said during a press conference at the John H. Wilson Building in Washington, D.C.

“This is going to be tailored to the needs of the resident. Different residents will have different needs,” Humphries said. “It could start off with how to do a resume — not necessarily getting to the technology piece — to training on Word, Excel or PowerPoint. We’re going to tailor [the training] to where that resident’s need level may be.”

Microsoft employees will assist trainers at various workforce centers around the District, Humphries said. He could not say during the question-and-answer session how much Microsoft is investing in the digital alliance.

For educators, the District will work with Microsoft to implement and host the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) program, a two-day seminar for educators focused on the integration of technology into classroom teaching and learning scenarios. The first-wave MIE session for District educators will be held this spring at Howard University.

Students also will gain exposure to the growing career opportunities in areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Hundreds of local students will attend technology exposure events such as Microsoft DigiGirlz days and Minority Students Days, where they will have the chance to take on technology challenges through small-group work, interact with Microsoft executives and learn more about technology-related careers.

Responding to questions about who would benefit from the training programs and the availability of entry-level jobs in the area, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, said, “Let’s not lose sight on the fact that we are in this for the long haul.”

“This is not looking for jobs to evolve within the next six to 12 months; that is why we are focusing on the education of our children,” Gray said. Children who are seven and eight years of age now will be the employees in 15 to 20 years.

There will be some benefits over the next six to 12 months, the mayor said. However, “I don’t want to look at this as a short-term solution, but rather as a long-term investment, especially in young people,” Gray said.

As the District recruits more technology companies to set up business in the city, officials want to train the workforce of the future through community colleges and local schools, he noted.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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