Today is the kickoff of American Education Week with the purpose of shining a spotlight on the importance that every student has a basic right to receive an excellent public education and highlighting the need for everyone to get involved in improving the education system in the United States. To help celebrate, we are in Raleigh, North Carolina announcing a new partnership with North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to bring IT training to every high school student in the state.

With the national unemployment rate at 9.6%, and 16.6% for recent college grads, the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that 77% of American jobs will require technology skills in the next decade, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure high school seniors graduate college and career ready and equipped with 21st century skills to be able to compete in a tech-savvy workforce.

To help make sure students are prepared, Microsoft believes career and technology education should be a fundamental part of every academic program. It can help engage and motivate students and lead to lower dropout rates, greater student success and higher earnings. We expect  that North Carolina with its adoption of Microsoft IT Academy will be setting a trend and an example for other states to follow to ensure their students are able to compete and obtain the jobs of tomorrow.

Microsoft has certified almost 6 million people around the world in nearly two decades, underscoring the marketplace demand for Microsoft certified professionals.  Today, Microsoft IT Academy has more than 9,000 members in 100 countries globally.  We know the program works.  For example, IT Academy students in Florida high schools have outperformed their peers on standardized tests.  In schools across the country, teachers have used the IT Academy curriculum for students to earn early college credits.  That’s right, the certification exams in the IT Academy are recognized for college credit!

We are also working with North Carolina Public Schools to rollout Microsoft DreamSpark and CareerForward. DreamSpark is a program that provides no-cost access to Microsoft designer and developer and gaming tools and training via download to support and advance student learning and skills through technical design, technology, math, science and engineering activities. CareerForward is a free online learning program that acts kind of like a digital guidance counselor. It was developed as part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning initiative and covers globalization, career planning, financial literacy and entrepreneurship that helps students explore career options and take charge of their future. It matches the competencies and strengths of students with jobs they want to pursue so students can understand how they need to prepare and what classes to take in order to achieve their goals. These programs will complement the Microsoft IT Academy to help connect learning to students’ lives and make education more relevant in the world they live.

You can read more about the North Carolina statewide deployment here and hear what Leesville Road High School teachers and students have to say about their new IT Academy in the video below. Once the Microsoft IT Academy is adopted across the state, the program will reach more than 2,500 teachers and nearly 200,000 students over the course of three years. We can’t wait to see the report card!

Posted by Siegfried Behrens
General Manager of U.S. Education