Posted by Fred Humphries
Vice President, U.S. Government Affairs, Microsoft

Washington, D.C. has been resilient through the economic turmoil of the past three years, but our region still faces significant challenges.

The world is changing fast, driven by changes like globalization and the rapid adoption of new technologies. These changes present huge opportunities, but they demand new skills and capabilities, especially in the area of science and technology. To help District residents navigate these opportunities and challenges, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray today announced a partnership with Microsoft designed to improve the region’s economic competitiveness by making technology, education and training more accessible to residents and local businesses.

We see an emerging “opportunity divide”- especially for young people - between those who have the skills, education and opportunities they need to thrive in this new world and those who don’t, and risk getting left further behind. This partnership aims to help close this “opportunity divide ” by providing technology training to unemployed residents, business development resources to local D.C. firms designed to spark job growth, and scholarship opportunities to local high school students interested in pursuing high-demand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. The partnership will empower more D.C. residents and organizations to realize their full potential in this new and exciting world, through:

Improved Education: The Digital Alliance seeks to foster employability and lifelong learning. A key strategy is exposing high school students, especially girls, to career opportunities in high paying STEM fields. In 2012, Microsoft will sponsor technology career events for D.C. students to interact with technology business leaders, learn about STEM job opportunities and engage in technology career planning.

Expanded Job Opportunities: To help bridge the opportunity divide and lower chronic unemployment, Microsoft’s Returning Unemployed Washingtonians to Work Program will enable District residents to improve their digital literacy through training and certifications on the latest software tools being used at workplaces across the region. The initiative will also serve as a recruitment pipeline for ten local women or minority owned Certified Business Enterprises (CBE). Each of these local businesses will receive $100,000 of Microsoft business development resources to help grow their business and generate job growth across the region.

Microsoft is honored to be a part of Mayor Gray’s vision for the future of Washington, D.C. We think this partnership could serve as a model of economic empowerment for other cities. Bridging the opportunity divide won’t happen overnight, but programs like this are essential to maximizing the potential of our nation’s workforce and to sustaining thriving communities.