A free program giving away free technology training to job seekers made its debut Friday in New York, the 14th state participating in Microsoft’s “Elevate America” initiative.
Working with the state Department of Labor, Microsoft is giving 71,000 vouchers for online training and certification through the state’s One-Stop Career Centers at no cost to residents. The first-come, first-served vouchers will be available through June 24.
The training ranges from basic technology literacy to advanced-level certifications for professionals seeking career tracks like database management or Web development. Vouchers for the Microsoft Business Certification exam must be redeemed by June 24 as well.
To receive a voucher, New York residents must request a voucher in person by going to a local One-Stop Career Center. The training could then be done at home or at the career center, according to state officials. Government employees are not eligible to participate in this program.
Andrea Taylor, director of North American Community Affairs for Microsoft, said each voucher has an estimated value of $100 to $300 and represents a major help to those already struggling to find a job.
The effort is part of Microsoft’s “Unlimited Potential” program to accelerate work force development at the individual level, according to company officials.
The “Elevate America” program, which began nationwide in 2009, has been implemented in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington. The program is expected to debut in Massachusetts next week.
Microsoft hopes to help 2 million workers over the next three years through the program — people like Willy Munoz, 27, of Latham, who is seeking a position in IT support after being laid off by an accounting firm that employed him for two years.
“I’ve been searching for about six months now and it’s been a tough road,” he said. “I’ve been on interviews and it has always been that other person who has that certification or a little bit more experience than I do. I figure that having a certification is going to help.”
Munoz, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from SUNY-Brockport, said he will seek the IT professional certification through the state and then later seek the MCSA, a higher Microsoft network administrator certification.
“This is a first step in the process,” said Munoz, who also has an associate degree in telecommunications from Hudson Valley Community College.
For John Kociuba, 28, of Watervliet, he’s picking up skills he knows he should have learned years ago.
Kociuba was a work-at-home telecommunications professional when he was laid off in August. He has an associate degree in computer science from Monroe Community College in Rochester.
Kociuba’s job search has included mostly temporary work.
“I’m very much underemployed. I have a lot of IT background, but I have never had enough money to go for certification,” he said. “A+ certification is pretty much the door opener for IT professionals.”
The recession has taught him one lesson — slacking doesn’t get you very far.
“Ten years ago I didn’t think the certifications were as important. I just went to college. … Back then I was a slacker,” Kociuba said. “In this day and age, you can’t slack at all. You have to be very gung ho about what you do. Otherwise you won’t get what you want.”
The state Labor Department said computer-related skills are becoming a fundamental part of employment.
“The need for computer skills has made it vital for almost every worker to have them, even for entry-level positions,” said state Labor Commissioner Colleen Gardner.