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When Kelly Edwards lost her job as a technical writer, she knew she needed to update her computer skills to find another job in today’s competitive workforce. She found out about Microsoft Elevate America and signed up for free online training in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. In just three months, she achieved her goal of gaining Microsoft Office Specialist certifications in all three applications and found a new job.

“Not only did Elevate America teach me new technology skills which gave me a competitive advantage in the workforce, it also gave me the confidence I needed when speaking with potential employers.” Kelly continued: “Showing employers that you’re willing and able to learn new skills is very important. It shows them that you can take on the challenge of learning a new job.”

In February 2009 Microsoft announced Elevate America, an initiative to provide people across the United States with free technology training and certification to help them find employment. Over the course of 18 months we worked with 32 states and the District of Columbia to distribute over 800,000 training and certification vouchers for people like Kelly and others who have benefited from the program.

Addressing the issues of unemployment and job creation is complex. They are often very different from state to state, and even community to community. From the outset of Elevate America we wanted to make sure that we learned from the program and used that knowledge to shape future programs and help inform our partners to better serve those individuals in need of these resources and skills.

 

Today we are sharing what we have learned from the Elevate America state voucher program in a new report. It includes insights gained by the experiences of the 32 states and the District of Columbia, and most importantly from in-depth interviews with the people who devote their time to helping people find employment and those who benefit from that work.

There are a number of interesting trends identified in the report including:

  • Men were less likely to participate in skills training.
  • People in the 36-50 age range were most likely to take advantage of this free training.
  • Elevate America was most attractive to those with post-secondary education
  • Internet access was a key success factor for technology training
  • Tailored assessments increased training and certification success

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The single most important objective of these programs is helping people to get the skills they need to find employment or start a business. We’ve been very happy to hear the success stories from Elevate America, some of which are included in the report.

 

In the fall of 2009, Jim Griffith heard about the Elevate America state voucher program and drove to the Workforce Investment Network job center in Jackson, Mississippi, on the first day the vouchers became available. Over the next several months, he took a variety of online courses that taught him how to more effectively use the Windows operating system and Office applications.

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“Elevate America was an excellent resource in giving me the skills I needed to improve my client communications and more efficiently manage my small business. Since I finished the program, I’ve increased revenue by at least 30 percent. “Elevate America has truly made a difference in both my personal and business activities, helping me increase productivity and learn new skills that continue to positively impact my daily life.” 

We are also committed to ensuring that our experience with the Elevate America state voucher program helps to inform how we think about future community programs. Since the launch of the state program we have put this knowledge to work in creating two new programs:

  • Elevate America veterans initiative provides 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.
  • Elevate America community initiative supports nonprofit organizations offering employment services, including technology skills training and job placement, in local communities across the United States.

We approach our community programs with the belief that we are always learning, both from our own experience and from those of our partners in the community. Download the Elevate America state report today and let us know what you think.

To find out more about the resources available through the Elevate America program visit: http://www.microsoft.com/elevateamerica