Washington State Library partners with Microsoft to bridge tech skills gap

News Release
Issued: November 12, 2013

Note: Secretary of State Kim Wyman and State Librarian Rand Simmons are joining Microsoft officials, state Sen. Andy Hill, R-45th District, and state Rep. Cyrus Habib, D-48th District, and local library officials at a Nov. 12 news conference and demonstration event in the Bellevue Library, 1111 – 110th Ave. NE, from 10 to 11 a.m. to discuss the IT Academy and show how it operates. The launch event will take place in the library's meeting room (off the foyer).

On Nov. 13, Wyman, Simmons, Microsoft officials, and Rep. Kevin Parker, R-6th District, will do a similar media event at the Spokane Public Library – Downtown, 906 W. Main Ave., from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

BELLEVUE, Wash. – Today the Washington State Library and Microsoft announced a partnership that will bring Microsoft's IT Academy online training to Washingtonians, for free, at more than 385 libraries across the state. The IT Academy will provide participants with industry-leading technology training to help prepare Washington residents for success in a global workplace that grows more tech-dependent each day.

Washington began offering IT Academy in Washington public schools statewide in September 2011 and now becomes the first state to offer the IT Academy program through both its high schools and its libraries. More than 16,000 certifications have been earned by Washington public school students and teachers since the program began, with nearly 11,600 of those earned in the 2012-13 school year. The Microsoft IT Academy is available in 15,000 institutions worldwide.

"We are proud to be the first state to offer Microsoft IT Academy in both public schools and libraries statewide," said Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. "Washingtonians can lead the way as entrepreneurs and innovators, and we need to ensure that they have the skills, training and credentials to seize the incredible opportunities in cutting edge IT industries."

Secretary of State Kim Wyman said the new collaboration reflects a tech-savvy, forward-thinking Washington State Library helping libraries better serve people in their communities in every corner of the state.

"This is another way for the State Library to provide meaningful services that really benefit people throughout Washington," Wyman said. "We're excited that so many libraries are our partners with the IT Academy. The winners will be people in almost every community in our state who take advantage of this great training opportunity."

Speaking for the success of IT Academy in Washington's public schools, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said, "We're very pleased with the Microsoft IT Academy. About 600 certifications were issued in 2011-12. Just a year later, that number topped 10,000. The numbers alone are a great indication of how popular the program is, and how much students want it. The certifications that students earn will help them in their careers and in any post-secondary education plans they might have. Partnering with Microsoft on this program has been a great success."

Margo Day, vice president of Microsoft's U.S. Education business, said: "One out of two jobs today requires IT skills, and in less than 10 years this number will increase to three out of every four jobs requiring IT skills. At a time when everyone needs these types of skills to succeed in their economic future, Microsoft's IT Academy provides a vital path to employment."

"The technology skills gap continues to grow globally and IT Academy will support an employable workforce," commented Carrie Francey, Senior Director, Microsoft. "In Washington State alone, twenty five thousand jobs statewide have gone unfilled for at least three months and approximately twenty thousand of those jobs are in computer science and healthcare according to The Washington Roundtable. The free access that IT Academy offers will enable any Washington State resident with a passion or interest in technology to become trained and certified. We believe that technology is for everyone and this program makes that vision a reality."

"This is an inspired program that will help better prepare many Washingtonians for the great family wage jobs in Washington that continue to require increasing levels of technology expertise. It is also a great example of Washington's employers investing in our state's communities and citizens," said Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable, a statewide association of senior business executives.

The Washington State Library Microsoft IT Academy offers three levels of technology courses: Basic digital literacy proficiencies, Microsoft Office training, and advanced skills for IT professionals. Participants can achieve certification following successful completion of a series of courses by testing at certification centers, or they may choose to complete selected courses without certification. Certification is at the participant's expense, while the courses are available without cost.

The IT Academy training program will soon be available at public libraries and tribal libraries and will be available at the beginning of winter quarter at community and technical college libraries.

The IT Academy partnership was authorized in the 2013-15 operating budget passed by the state Legislature in June. At the request of Wyman, lawmakers provided $1.5 million for the State Library to purchase statewide online access to the IT Academy, allowing public access to online courses and learning resources through public, community and technical college, and tribal libraries. The state investment will leverage a much larger contribution from Microsoft, one of the state's preeminent corporate neighbors.

"I'm very pleased that the Legislature provided funding and a green light for a partnership with Microsoft for the implementation of the IT Academy," Wyman said. "This online program will allow anyone in our state to use this self-paced, free program to get IT training through a local library."

The total combined value of the IT Academy for all Washington library patrons, librarians and staff members is about $22 million per year, based on what libraries would need to pay if purchasing all of the IT Academy benefits on an individual basis.

"Microsoft is providing a 90 percent discount on this," Wyman said. "This is an incredible bargain for Washingtonians and our libraries. Thanks to Microsoft's generosity and the funding provided by the Legislature, the IT Academy's training program is being offered to people in our state without charge."

Wyman and State Librarian Rand Simmons praised and thanked Microsoft and the Legislature for making the IT Academy program possible in Washington's libraries.

"The Legislature saw the value of investing in this important program, and Microsoft is providing most of the resources as a public service," Simmons said. "It's very exciting to advance Washingtonians' skills and increase their employability. This cutting-edge idea will have the ability to touch every community in our state and help average people, who often need IT skills, to qualify for family-wage jobs."

Simmons said libraries are an obvious place for Washingtonians to receive IT Academy training.

"Libraries have been doing in the life-long learning business for a long time, so they are a natural fit for the IT Academy's training program," Simmons added. "People are used to coming to their libraries for assistance. It makes perfect sense to have libraries host this training program that will help make many more Washingtonians IT-literate."

Simmons noted that the IT Academy is a program that follows the State Library's vision, "which is ensuring that Washingtonians have access to the information they need today."

Microsoft's IT Academy membership includes more than 15,000 academic organizations in 133 nations, reaching 8.5 million educators and students around the world.