Unable to pay her rent after losing her job as an office receptionist in 2007, Los Angeles native Gloria Pulido found herself living somewhere she never could have imagined: her car. Homeless, Gloria and her teenage son searched for community resources to help her get back on her feet, and they found the Microsoft Elevate America state voucher program. Designed to help address one of the worst economic downturns in our nation’s recent history, the program provides unlimited access to Microsoft courses in basic computer skills to help individuals improve their workplace technology skills.

With unemployment close to 11 percent, California was one of the 32 states that joined the Elevate America program, offering information and communication technology (ICT) training to anyone seeking new or improved workplace skills. Gloria took a course in Microsoft Excel and, on her first try, passed the Microsoft Online Specialist certification exam. Emphasizing the new expertise on her resume, she attained a part-time job as a cashier for Saturday-night bingo games at the Don Bosco Technical Institute. While there, she improved the scheduling and notification tasks associated with parent volunteer efforts, applying the skills she gained from the certification course. Impressed with her initiative and her way around a spreadsheet, the school offered her a full-time position (with benefits) as the parent liaison.

“When I heard about the Microsoft training, it was like a little glimmer of light went off in my head,” reflects Gloria. “I knew if I could get at least one of the certifications, it would show that I knew that [software] program.” Gloria is just one of the 800,000 recipients of no-cost training and certification vouchers that Microsoft has provided in the past two years to help people across the United States get the skills they need to be prepared for 21st century jobs. Not only has the program helped thousands of individuals improve their employability, but it also has raised awareness of the importance of ICT literacy and offered public workforce systems around the country practical experience in delivering these ICT training programs.

If you or someone you know is interested in enhancing current job skills, please visit the Microsoft Elevate America site. There, you’ll find many participating cities and states that can help you on your way to achieving career success. Check out the Microsoft News Center for additional information and updates.