Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
The US elections are just over and the major concern and worry we all share is the economy and the future of our jobs. With the overall unemployment numbers still very high this anxiety is real. Often when I speak with colleagues about training programs they roll their eyes and ask me why start another training program when there are no jobs available.
If we follow their logic there is nothing we can do. However, as I travel the country and meet people from all walks of life, I hear a different story. People still want new skills that will increase their opportunities for a job. A little while ago Linda Arellano tweeted after we launched our Elevate America program thanking us for this support. She has been unemployed for over two years and believes that training will help her.
While the overall unemployment rate for the U.S. remains steady at 9.6 percent, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars return home to face an unemployment rate 20 percent greater than that of civilians. This got us thinking and just under a year ago Microsoft gathered a group of experts together to start a series of discussions about the issues and challenges facing our nation’s veterans, particularly concerning the transition to civilian employment. We wanted to understand how we could extend our Elevate America program to support them. We saw that in under two years after the introduction of the Elevate America program over 900,000 people signed up for training. We felt that for our veterans we need to have a different program and that there was a lot to learn. We were right on both counts.
Last month, we reconvened this original group, plus six additional organizations at our headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to talk about how we could put what we’ve learned into action. It was both heartwarming to hear how these organizations are facing up to the challenge to support our returning veterans but also concerning when you hear the breadth of challenges they face. The discussion centered on what we could collectively do to support them in a manner whereby the benefits are tangible and real. The result is the Elevate America veterans initiative.
The Elevate America veterans initiative builds on our Elevate America program to address our veterans - a community typically underserved with the support they need to make the leap from the military to civilian workforce. More than half of today’s jobs require some technology skills, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that will reach 77 percent in the next decade.
We have been fortunate to work with an advisory group - the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations (USO), and the Wounded Warrior Project – who were able to bring the benefit of their direct experience with veterans across the country into our planning around this program. The veterans initiative goes beyond our existing Elevate America programs because it couples technology skills training with ancillary services such as career counseling, job placement, childcare, transportation, and housing services.
Today, we are proud to announce result of this work. There are six nonprofit recipients of our Elevate America veterans initiative grants who will provide new education, job training and placement programs to help give veterans and their spouses the skills and resources they need to be successful in today’s civilian work force. Through these grants, Microsoft is providing $2 million in cash and up to $6 million in software and information technology (IT) skills training curriculum to the following organizations:
Each of these organizations and their partners represent a unique program and service model, serving veterans and spouses across the country. Together, we hope that we can learn best practices, share models that work well and ultimately help scale these efforts broadly to meet the needs of the thousands of veterans and spouses who could benefit from this type of support.
As we approach Veterans Day we hope that our work with these organizations goes a small way towards recognizing the contributions and sacrifices of our veterans. They deserve all the support we can provide.
More veterans resources:
The Imagine Cup 2011 competition is already in full swing. Students are beginning to assemble their teams and thinking about their projects and the problems they want to solve.
This year we are launching a new program called “Imagine Cup Solve This” to provide additional inspiration for students looking for project ideas. “Imagine Cup Solve This” takes the concept of solving the world’s toughest problems a step further by connecting students with specific, real problems that inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need help solving. Students can access a library of problems submitted by the organizations on imaginecup.com to find issues that matter most to them and then put their ideas into action as they create technology solutions in several different categories of competition.
For example, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is looking for technology solutions to promote and assist organizations and educators that foster early reading and literacy among young children, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) wants a knowledge management system, or “online campus,” with virtual classrooms that allows teachers to interact, collaborate and share information with their students. NetHope is also participating, and we plan to extend this program over time to include submissions from all IGOs and NGOs from around the world that are interested in participating.
The Imagine Cup started in 2003 with only 1,000 competitors from 25 countries. In the first few years, interest grew modestly. As the competition developed, we decided a great source of inspiration would be to focus on solving societal issues. Leveraging the United Nations Millennial Development Goals as a guide, registration soared.
In 2010, more than 325,000 students from 100 countries and regions entered the competition. It became evident to us that students care deeply about major issues such as improving education, combating diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability, and want to do their part to save the world.
Students can register their team today at www.imaginecup.com.
What a better way to connect real-world problems with real-world problem-solvers. We see “Imagine Cup Solve This” as just the beginning of a new approach to how NGOs and other organizations can tap into students’ creativity and technology savvy.
By: Kim Bodine, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Workforce Board
Note: This post is part of a weeklong celebration of U.S. military veterans. You can find more stories and resources at the Microsoft Citizenship website.
I’ve been working with employers in our area for more than 15 years and time and time again I hear businesses refer to those who have served in military as America’s best and brightest. I found that out first hand when I hired Joe Chavarria, a 20 year Air Force Vet.
The first day on the job, Joe Chavarria showed up fifteen minutes early. He later told me that “in the military if you’re right on time you are considered late.” Not only did Joe make a great impression on that first day but he became a valuable team member, demonstrating great leadership and networking skills. In fact, people around the office jokingly call him Mr. 24/7.
Joe is one of thousands of military veterans in our community. Today’s veterans bring unique skills and experience to the civilian workforce. Their advanced training and ability to adapt to new circumstances make them excellent employees, with a high rate of retention.
John Ed McDanal, District Manager for the Gulf Power Company in Panama City, Florida told me that “Veterans bring leadership to the workplace. They are dependable, disciplined and have a strong commitment to excellence.”
Jeanette Deatherage, Veterans Employment Representative at our local one stop career center and a military veteran herself explained to me that the military trains people to perform. “They do their job, do it right the first time and do it in a timely manner. They are continuously setting priorities, meeting schedules and accomplishing their missions.”
There are numerous skills and attributes that today’s veterans bring to the table. According to the US Department of Labor, here are the top five reasons to hire veterans:
Not only does hiring veterans make good business sense, but it allows you to return the favor for their service and sacrifice. As an added bonus, businesses may even qualify for tax credits and incentives for hiring disabled vets. For more information on hiring veterans, please contact your local one stop career center or visit www.careeronestop.org.
Kim Bodine, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Workforce Board
Is it our location on the fringe of the lower 48, our bustling ports, our proximity to Asia, or our inspiring natural surroundings that give the state of Washington such an orientation toward global development issues? I don’t really know, but there is no denying that something is in motion here.
Last week, we sponsored the 2nd annual Global Washington conference on our campus here in Redmond, WA. Having supported Global Washington as an organization over the past three years, it has been great to see the organization gain such momentum in a relatively short time. With 450 registered attendees, the conference entitled “Bridges to Breakthroughs” focused on the role of partnerships and innovation in the rapidly-changing global development sector. The amazing level of interest, quality of speakers, and engaging hallway discussions further supported my theory that Washington State has become a nexus of international development second in the US only to the other Washington.
Speaking of the other Washington, the conference was kicked off by Ambassador-at-Large for Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, who also recognizes the unique confluence of organizations based on Washington state working on international development issues, many empowering women and girls in both direct and indirect ways. The Ambassador noted a recent visit to one of the Community Technology Centers Microsoft sponsors near Beijing that trains primarily young immigrant women who face unbelievable hurdles after arriving in the city. With new skills, including in the use of basic information technology, the odds of success for these women increase significantly. Noting this as just one example of great work being done by a Washington-based organization, the Ambassador spoke of the refreshing and inspiring atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest and that Washington DC might just have something to learn from this corner of the country.
The conference also provided space for some of the smaller organizations who often struggle to make the speaking circuit. Through a video competition, organizations based in Washington submitted short videos highlighting the work they do, the partnerships they formed and innovations they have applied. The winners were highlighted during lunch on the first day of the conference, including a set up and pitch by a representative from each organization. But recognition of one special video was held until day two, when Jessica Markowitz and Grace Mutesi presented a video about Richard’s Rwanda. Both just 15 years old, these young women are simply amazing – Jessica, as the President of the organization, has more poise, presence and depth than most people three times her age. Grace, who was born as the genocide was just beginning, studies at Myamata High School in Rwanda and spoke of her dream to set an example for other young women and study medicine so that she can give back to her community.
Throughout the conference there were many examples of innovation originating from our state, from health care to mobile banking. Concurrent panels on technology solutions, commercial strategies for development, women and girls, and environment were compelling in content and highly interactive. And all indications from social media and traditional press have been largely positive. At Microsoft we are proud to be a part of this community and to offer our resources as a meeting and collaboration space because we believe that only by working together can we solve some of the biggest problems faced by the world.
Posted by: Jane Broom
Today, Microsoft opened our seventh Microsoft Store, right here in our backyard in Bellevue, Washington. As with each of our previous store openings, we awarded grants to local community organizations as part of the Grand Opening. At a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and COO Kevin Turner presented more than $1 million in technology grants to local Puget Sound organizations to help improve skills and education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for local students. The grants were based on how members of the local community voted on the Microsoft Store Facebook page. The grants include:
Steve Ballmer and Kevin Turner present a grant to FIRST Robotics Washington, one of four local organizations receiving more than $1 million in technology grants at the ribbon cutting ceremony to open Microsoft’s seventh retail store in Bellevue, WA.
These grants are not only part of our ongoing commitment to our home state of Washington and to improving STEM educational opportunities, but also our focus on extending Microsoft’s broad-based community commitment through our retail stores. We do this both through support of local organizations and through in-store events and activities for the community. In each of our stores, we offer free technology training courses and open our store up to local organizations like youth groups, schools, adult education and non-profits so that they can use our theater space – whether it’s for a training or a holiday morale event.
Our employees are very passionate about getting involved in local charitable efforts and each of our stores has a Community Development Specialist dedicated to working with local organizations to arrange in-store events and activities. To schedule a class or community event by contacting the store nearest you, go to: http://store.microsoft.com/community.
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