Today, I’m excited to have the opportunity to be in Chicago with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, and City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, as they announce the creation five new Early College STEM Schools that will focus on technology skills and career readiness. Microsoft is privileged to be selected as one of five corporate partners to help with this initiative to create a new grade 9-14 STEM model. We will be working with school leaders at Lake View High School to develop unique curriculum, to provide mentors and internships for students and professional development for teachers to begin in the 2012-2013 school year.

There’s no question, our country needs more young minds to focus on 21st century skills and pursue STEM careers. It’s fundamental to building a foundation for increased innovation and global competitiveness. Even Microsoft’s own strengths as a company lie in the ability to continue to hire creative thinkers with great software development skills.

We believe in the Mayor’s vision to invest in STEM education in order to create a talented workforce whose skillset can attract new business to the city. When Mayor Emanuel called me to ask if Microsoft would take on a school, I said “yes” without hesitation. And I like the idea of giving students the opportunity to take college-level courses early if they’ve mastered their high school curriculum. To have the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree is just phenomenal.

We want to empower and inspire students to reach their full potential and we want to help teachers do what they do best…teach.  We believe it is imperative that the private and public sectors come together to make a real impact to improve education and welcome collaboration with Cisco, IBM, Motorola Solutions and Verizon Wireless who have also been selected to adopt schools to make great things happen in Chicago.

Microsoft has made tremendous investments in not just technology to accelerate learning, but in human capital, programs, services and public-private partnerships to help education systems adapt to changing demands of the workforce.

We are excited to bring these proven and effective programs to Chicago Public Schools and Lake View High School:

Microsoft DreamSpark provides Microsoft world-class software development programs at no cost to students. Students also receive access to outstanding training resources to learn how to use these products. Schools can outfit their computer labs and provide students with the same software development tools that millions of engineers around the world use today.

Microsoft IT Academy is a fantastic program designed to help schools offer students and educators learning solutions for IT skills training and certification. It gives students hands-on experience with Microsoft’s latest technologies so they are able to obtain industry-recognized certifications that employers are demanding. It’s something they can put on their resume and immediately have an edge in the competitive job market. Just today on www.careerbuilder.com, there are more than 2,500 jobs available in Chicago alone looking for Microsoft skills.

CareerForward is an online program to help students assess their career interests, explore career options, and create an educational development plan. Career Forward program gives students a global perspective, and helps them develop financial literacy skills and the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. CareerForward was developed through a public/private partnership between Microsoft, the Michigan Department of Education, and Michigan Virtual University.

Students to Business (S2B) is a Microsoft community initiative that connects Microsoft partners and customers with qualified students for entry-level and internship programs. S2B helps to solidify the link between education attainment and economic growth by preparing and connecting students and helping to enable their success. We have 500 Microsoft employees in the Chicagoland area committed to mentoring and providing job shadowing opportunities.

Imagine Cup is the world’s premier student technology competition. Competing with their peers from around the world, students gain real-life experiences, make new friends, and turn their ideas into reality. Students compete in categories ranging from Software Design and Digital Media to Embedded Development and Game and Mobile Phone Design.

Microsoft Partners in Learning is a 10-year, $500-million global initiative designed to actively increase access to technology and to improve its use in learning. Its goal is to help schools gain better access to technology, foster innovative approaches to pedagogy and teacher professional development, and provide education leaders with the tools to envision, implement, and manage change. We will be adopting Lake View High School into the Innovative Schools Program. School leaders and teachers will have access to the Partners in Learning Network where they can enhance their personal development and the classroom experience for their students by sharing resources, lesson plans, learning activities, and tutorials. Microsoft will also provide Microsoft Innovative Educator training to help teachers integrate technology into the classrooms.

TeachTec Tools can help students and teachers find and download more than 100 resources developed for them by Microsoft. These innovative tools and applications, when combined with Microsoft Office and the Windows operating system, create a robust, creative, and collaborative learning environment. All TeachTec resources will be available to the school to help teachers effectively integrate technology into their curriculum.