State libraries, Microsoft will hone computer skills

OlympianNovember 15, 2013 

Olympia Timberland Regional Library (www.trlib.org)

The state library system has teamed up with Microsoft to bring the software giant’s IT Academy online training to state residents free of charge at more than 385 libraries across the state.

This innovative project is a great example of a public-private partnership with multiple benefits.

Library patrons can take advantage of three levels of technology courses: basic digital literacy, Microsoft Office training and advanced training for IT professionals.

It’s the type of training that will help prepare Washington residents for a global workplace that grows more tech-dependent each and every day. In Washington state alone, some 25,000 jobs have gone unfilled for at least three months, and 80 percent of those jobs are in the fields of computer science and health care, according to a Washington Roundtable report.

One of every two jobs in today’s job market requires IT skills. That number is expected to grow to three out every four jobs in less than 10 years. Participants who complete the IT Academy training and take the time to get certified could be in line for family-wage jobs that require technology expertise.

The Microsoft training program will be available soon in public and tribal libraries. Beginning winter quarter, IT Academy will also be offered for free in community and technical college libraries.

The IT Academy partnership gained traction in the 2013 Legislature when, at the request of Secretary of State Kim Wyman, $1.5 million was included in the operating budget to allow the State Library to purchase online access to the Microsoft program. If each library had purchased the IT academy benefits individually, it would have cost $22 million.

“This is an incredible bargain for Washingtonians and our libraries,” Wyman noted.

Microsoft stands to benefit, too. The program will expose thousands of potential Microsoft customers to Microsoft products and programs.

The state first started offering the IT Academy in public schools statewide in September 2011. Since then, some 16,000 students and teachers have achieved certification in the program. With the program expansion, Washington becomes the first state to offer the online training in public libraries.

To participate here in South Sound through the Timberland Regional Library system, library patrons will need their library card and a Microsoft account. Instruction on how to get started are available online at the Timberland Regional Library website, trl.org.

Whether you’re unemployed, underemployed or looking for a new career path or just want to sharpen your IT skills, the IT Academy could be the place for you.

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