Microsoft Citizenship Blog

  • Invest and Evaluate: a Landscape Guide to Youth Workforce Development Programs

    yBy: Yvonne Thomas, Director of Global Citizenship & Public Affairs at Microsoft

    In our rapidly changing, hyper-connected world, the information and communication technology (ICT) industry is driving economic growth, innovation, and job creation. More than 50 percent of today’s jobs require some degree of technology skills—and some experts say that will increase to 77 percent in the next decade—but many of the world’s youth don’t have the skills for these roles and will be unable to fill these jobs.

    We set out to better understand the landscape of youth skills training programs and initiatives, especially those working to build the technology skills of youth as part of a broader program, and developed a framework, “Understanding the Youth Workforce Development Technology Skills Training  Landscape”, that we are releasing today in partnership with Making Cents International. The framework is a tool for understanding the unique role that education and training providers play in youth workforce development and how they fit together based on their primary training objective, market alignment, and measures of success.

    We hope that this framework will be leveraged by practitioners, funders, youth leaders, government and others to foster a common language, greater cooperation, more partnerships and joint projects to increase the alignment of education and skills training efforts to employer needs, with the intent of an increase in youth economic opportunities.

    Click here to read the study and find out more.

    Tweet and share this report with those in your network who care about getting youth the right skills, and into jobs: #Microsoft and @MakingCentsIntl release toolkit for youth #workforce dev programs -- check it out! #YouthSpark


  • Announcing our support of the BRAID initiative

    By: Yvonne Thomas, Global Director of YouthSpark

    Providing all young people with the opportunity to learn computer science is something we feel strongly about at Microsoft. Through our YouthSpark initiative, we work with partners and programs around the world who focus on helping young people learn how to become creators of technology – especially for populations underrepresented in computer science.

    As part of our continued emphasis on this important work, today at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting we were proud to stand with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and alongside others in our industry to share our commitment to support a joint initiative led by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) and Harvey Mudd College, “Building Recruiting and Inclusion for Diversity” (BRAID) which will work with college and university computer science departments to increase the percentage of their undergraduate majors that are female and students of color. 

    Recent studies project that there are 122,000 job openings annually in computing fields in the United States requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, yet less than 50,000 qualified degrees are currently being produced by the U.S. higher education system. Today, women and minorities represent less than 34% of graduates with bachelor degrees in computer science. 

    These statistics illustrate the key reasons why Microsoft develops initiatives like DigiGirlz and works with partners like Girls Who Code and The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). We want to be sure that every young person who wants to pursue a career in computer science has not only the access, but the appropriate supports to succeed. We’re thrilled to support the BRAID initiative that will work to address this gap specifically for women and students of color, helping create a strong pipeline of future innovators. Learn more about the initiative here.

  • Meet our new YouthSpark Youth Advisors!

    By: Yvonne Thomas, Global Director of YouthSpark

    Last week we announced big updates to our Microsoft YouthSpark initiative as we cross our two year milestone, and today we're announcing the YouthSpark Youth Advisors, as a way for us to seek ideas, feedback and insight directly from an amazing group of young people and ensure YouthSpark continues to meet the needs of youth around the world.

    Eighteen youth will serve as YouthSpark Youth Advisors in their home countries and in global activities.  They will share their perspectives and challenge our ideas to help us create programs, partnerships and resources that continue to meet the needs of youth around the world.  Their involvement will be especially important as we expand technology education to turn the tide of rising youth unemployment.

    Meet our YouthSpark Youth Advisors from around the globe:

    David Casillas – Mexico

    David Casillas starting developing software as a student through Microsoft Dreamspark. As his coding skills grew, he began to compete in Imagine Cup, the Microsoft global student technology contest. He won competition after competition, and represented Mexico in the final global showcase. After Imagine Cup, David went on to start his own enterprise—Nyx Technology—to develop multi-platform software that support health issues in his country. His work has been used in his local municipalities and for Mexico's Ministry of Education.

    Francesco Mancino - Italy

    A passionate social entrepreneur, Francesco participated in Startup Revolutionary Road, a Microsoft YouthSpark program which provides tools and resources for young entrepreneurs. Francesco founded his own ICT startup—Leevia—a photography driven, crowd-sourced, online platform for petitions and causes. He has participated in several entrepreneurship programs and has won numerous awards for his ideas and presentations, including first place for "Best ICT Idea" at the Global Social Venture competition. 

    Genevieve L’Esperance - Canada

    Genevieve is a Computer Science & Molecular Biology major at McGill University. She learned to code at a young age and quickly recognized that she was a minority in the male-dominated field. Her goal is to break down the perception barrier so that girls look at the computer science profession more objectively as a career choice. She went on to get Microsoft certifications in various technologies and skills, become a Windows 8 Ambassador for her college campus, and has devoted countless hours to teaching programming to girls. She hopes to show them the doors that computer science has opened for her, and that it’s a field not just for boys. 

    Jie Ren - China

    Jie is committed to learning and applying new technologies and sharing these skills with others. Through his work as the program director for the Rabbit King Research Center for Poverty Alleviation (RKRC) and a trainer for the Microsoft Youth Community Center project, Jie has helped youth and rural families in his community use technology to start a small business in rabbit farming. Jie has a Master’s of Science in International Management from the University of London and a Bachelor’s of Science in Retail Management and Food Quality from Harper Adams University.

    Johnnie Lovett - United States

    Johnnie has come a long way from handling carts at the local grocery store in high school. He participated in YouthSpark partner program Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) to learn how to become an effective entrepreneur, and then with his grocery store income, created his own startup clothing line: Fresh Connection Brand. He’s worked with NBA Superstar Dwyane Wade, as well as Microsoft YouthSpark and NFTE on collaborative brand and apparel projects. He is the inaugural recipient of Bill Sharp’s The Future of Advertising award and now an Assistant Strategic Planner for Commonground Marketing, an emerging ad firm in Chicago, IL.

    Joshua Uwadiae - United Kingdom

    A high school drop-out and formerly incarcerated youth, Joshua found a new path for his future through an apprenticeship. He received training and education through the QA Apprenticeship program, a part of the Microsoft YouthSpark program in the UK. He achieved four Microsoft Technology Associate Certifications and was recognized as the Microsoft Apprentice of the Year runner up in 2013. Joshua is now an apprenticeship ambassador, motivating youth to continue their education and consider an apprenticeship path, and proudly holds a full-time job as an IT Manager for eCourier.

    Kiho Park - Japan

    Kiho is a young social entrepreneur in Osaka. He cares passionately about the lives of underserved youth in Japan and created DxP (Dream times Possibility), to help impoverished Japanese youth tackle career and social inclusion issues. His nonprofit, a Microsoft YouthSpark partner since 2012, provides IT skills training and work experience for students attending high school only part-time or during the night time. The skills training has proven effective for helping youth to learn important skill sets for future careers, enhance their self-esteem, and helping them move out of poverty.

    Manolis Labovas - Greece

    Manolis Labovas is the Project Manager of, a Microsoft Youthspark Initiative which has received distinction at the European CSR Awards 2013 and is one of the pledges of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs of the European Commission. Manolis has organized several large scale conferences and campaigns, including the “Get Online Week 2014” campaign in Greece. He is also a member of the Management team of YouRock, a dynamic new social media network available in 15 languages helping young people to identify their hidden work skills from their activities.

    Mary Mwende - Kenya

    Mary grew up in Mombasa, Kenya. Her circumstances motivated her to study diligently and she was one of the first girls to join the Global Give Back Circle. Her unwavering desire to succeed and give back have led to her to share the stage with U.S. President Bill Clinton, secure a four-year full scholarship to the American University of Dubai (AUD), and become the first African woman to be elected President of the Student Government at AUD.  Having graduated with honors, Mary is now enrolled as a Clinton Scholar doing her Graduate (MBA) studies on a full scholarship, mentors at risk youth and continues to support her home community. 

    Michael Teoh – Malaysia

    Michael Teoh is the Founder-Strategist of Thriving Talents, a company that trains students and workers in companies and universities to succeed in life and work. He is an awardee of PRESTIGE's “Top 40 Under 40” Awards for Malaysians and was recognized as one of the world's leading enterprising youth by the Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2011. Michael is also the Honorary Advisor for Youth in Economics & Entrepreneurship Development for the World Youth Parliament based in Geneva, Switzerland. He currently consults for start-up companies in education, public safety, online media, food & beverage and tourism industries, and is also co-author of Potential Matrix™, a book focused on personal development for youth.

    Rafael Regh – Germany

    Rafael is a young app developer who is incredibly passionate about technology and Microsoft. At only 15, he became the youngest-ever Microsoft Student Partner in Germany. He cares deeply about the youth tech skills gap and teaches young people in his community how to code in C# and build mobile applications. He has also developed a number of smart phone applications -- from Mensa games to the official Windows 8 application for the German Parliament.

    Raneem Medhat - Egypt

    Raneem is a senior at Cairo University, studying Computer Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering. She has dedicated her time volunteering to help student associations, schools and social entrepreneurship startups with marketing, technology education and project management.  Raneem has worked on the Aspire Woman University program, by leading 24 University clubs nationwide, reaching more than 4,000 girls, while also developing a website that supports women entrepreneurs in Egypt.

    Roxana Rugina - France

    She struggled after graduate school to find work—a common problem for many talented young people in today’s job market—so she attended an intensive six-month boot camp called Simplon, a YouthSpark nonprofit partner, where she learned how to code, write a business plan, and even create her own apps. She went on to co-found Simplon Romania and is currently working to prepare the next generation with the necessary skills in order to gain 21st century jobs.

    Samantha Bustamante - United States

    Samantha immigrated to America from Mexico City at the age of 13. Her mother was homeless, single and brought her to the US in search of better opportunities for her daughter. Samantha discovered Year Up and participated in the YouthSpark partner program as a stepping stone out of poverty. She went through the program’s intensive business training for six months and then was placed in a high profile internship, afterwards securing a full-time job at CitiGroup. Now a quality insurance analyst, Samantha is committed to inspiring others through mentorship and sharing her success stories so others can find a way out of poverty.

    Varun Kashyap - India

    Varun is a social entrepreneur creating technology to reach communities and drive social change. He was a Global Shaper nominees by the World Economic Forum and currently a Young India Fellow, a leadership development program by Ashoka University in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, Carleton College and Sciences Po. He co-founded LetsEndorse, a crowd-endorsing platform that engages NGOs, businesses, citizens and governments to make change happen. Prior to this, he founded Suvidha Bazaar after graduating in 2010, a supply chain initiative for fresh farm produce benefitting both farmers and end consumers. He is currently a Alexander Von Humboldt & German Chancellor Fellow, a fellowship for tomorrow’s leaders awarded by the German Chancellor.

    Wanderson Skrock - Brazil

    Born in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Wanderson grew up to be a troubled teen, incarcerated twice before age 17. The second prison stint changed his life: he took computer courses from YouthSpark partner CDI, where he learned basic typing, how to use a computer, and productivity tools like Microsoft Office. He went on to teach others how to gain digital literacy skills and today, he is the Social Educator at the Center for Digital Inclusion in Rio de Janeiro teaching young people and inmates at a local prison technology skills so that they too can take a different path.

  • The Latest Idea in Wearable Tech: the Panic Button Bracelet

    By James Rooney, Senior Program Manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs

    It’s a wearable “panic button” for the unexpected dangerous circumstance. Attached to a bracelet, the panic button will signal to a Windows Phone OS, sending a 30-second voice clip to a pre-identified emergency contact with the phone. A GPS system will keep track of the person wearing the device.

    SafeWear was designed by a team of Microsoft software engineers led by Thambu Zaemenock Kamalabai, who came up with the idea after hearing about a woman attacked on a bus in India. “She didn’t have a phone or any way of notifying someone,” Thambu said. “She was totally alone.”

    Thambu wanted to come up with a device for people who may need to call for help but don’t carry a phone. Children will be able to wear the bracelet and be connected to parents’ phones. Runners can connect to a friend or family member. Travelers and seniors can be connected to loved ones.

    “I have a five-year-old daughter and I’m not ready to give her a phone so a wearable solution is perfect,” Thambu said. “It’s safe and easy to operate in case of an emergency.”

    At our Hackathon last month at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA, employees from across the globe worked in teams, hacking for two days to come up with apps and solutions for government, consumers, nonprofits and more. More than 30 of the teams created Tech for Good solutions designed to address social issues. 

    Thambu and his team won in the Tech for Good category. Judges said the project was innovative, useful, and they liked the wearable angle. The team was awarded a $1,000 donation gift card for YouthSpark on GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding program that finances important projects around the world.

    The two other winners in the Tech for Good category were Ability EyeGaze which uses Microsoft tech like the Surface 3 and Kinect to enable people with ALS and other degenerative diseases to control their assistive technologies, such as wheelchairs and communication tools, using only their eyes. Another winner, MATT: Microsoft Accessibility Testing Tool, makes accessibility testing for products faster and easier.

    Team SafeWear is already turning its winning idea into a reality. The team is currently working with hardware engineers to perfect the bracelet prototype, and has been pitching the concept and product to potential investors and Microsoft development teams.

    Microsoft Citizenship is proud to sponsor the Tech for Good category as part of our commitment to creating solutions that serve the needs of people around the globe.

    About the //oneweek Hackathon, Thambus said, “It was such a great experience turning my idea into a product, I can’t wait to take this to the next level.”

  • Seattle girls learn the "undercover greatness" of computer science

    By Yvonne Thomas, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Citizenship & Public Affairs

    Since the age of five, Hana Yohannes knew she wanted to create apps and work with technology for a living. “I saw so much power in computers in terms of what they can do for us,” she says.

    The 16 year-old Seattle high school student is one of 20 girls who spent their summer on Microsoft’s campus participating in Girls Who Code, a program we support as a part of Microsoft YouthSpark.

    Girls Who Code is an intensive seven-week immersion that offers hands on, project-based computer science education while providing a glimpse into life at some of the most vibrant technology companies. Participants learn several coding languages, mobile app development, how to program robots, and web design. Students are paired with female mentors, take field trips to meet other professionals, and learn how computer science is applied to the world on a day-to-day basis.

    Price Jimerson, another Girls Who Code participant, first became hooked on computer science through another YouthSpark program: Technology Education And Literacy in Schools (TEALS). TEALS pairs engineers from companies such as Microsoft with classroom teachers to teach computer science daily in 70 schools in 12 states. Price was excited when she learned that she would work with a Windows Phone every day through TEALS. “Then I realized it was hard work,” she acknowledges. But soon she was creating apps and even posting them in the Windows Phone Store.

    “Computer science is the greatest opportunity there is,” Price explains. “But it’s an undercover greatness because most kids don’t know about it.”

    That’s exactly what we’re addressing through Microsoft YouthSpark: helping more young people imagine the possibilities they unlock for themselves, their families, their communities and the world by learning how to use, create and apply technology.

    One of the ways that Girls Who Code teaches how computer science is applied at companies such as Microsoft is by giving participants the opportunity to “work backwards,” by visualizing how a certain person’s needs can be addressed with technology. Price’s team dreamed up an imaginary 70 year-old retiree named Edith Johnson, who requires a wheelchair and has impaired vision. But Edith, according to Price, still wants to go to the Seattle Art Museum. Their solution was to create an app that uses geolocation to provide large-text descriptions of exhibits nearby, making Edith’s overall visit more convenient and enjoyable.

    Girls Who Code participants at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington were also able to design elements of physical computing. They worked with Arduino, an open-source electronics platform to build apps that interact with sensors and microphones. Hana and her team created a circuit board that turns a music app on and off with the clap of a hand.

    Girls Who Code and programs like it tackle one of the tough challenges that we’re working to address through YouthSpark – that too few young people have access to computer science education. Too few receive hands-on experience with the kinds of hardware and software that Girls Who Code provides.

    “Being in the computer science field had always been something that I thought about but never really had the tools or resources to delve deeply into,” observes Bemnet Assefa, a junior at the Evergreen High School Campus in Seattle’s Highline School District. “The Girls Who Code Summer Immersion program provided me with the opportunity. That’s why I’ve dedicated my summer to it, and I don’t regret it one bit.”

    Bemnet also enjoyed spending time on Microsoft’s campus. “The environment is very laid back and there are a lot of resources that are available,” she says.

    As they wrapped up their summer at Microsoft, Hana, Price and Bemnet reflected on how to reach other girls, and young people in general, about the near-infinite possibilities technology education presents. They agreed that common perceptions need to be confronted. “People think technology companies are full of geeks who wear thick glasses and don’t go outside,” Price observed, in a building situated a block away from one of Microsoft’s soccer fields. “Really it’s an awesome culture of people who do coding for the greater good.”

    If you are inspired by these terrific young women, and want to learn about what a career in technology might hold for you, we invite you to visit our YouthSpark Hub, a place to explore free resources, such as coding lessons, and programs to help you imagine and create a better future. By accessing these and other opportunities, you, too, can be a girl (or a boy) who codes.

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