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Microsoft to help U.S. vets be all they can be

Microsoft's Elevate America program promises to provide U.S. veterans with high-tech and career-building skills as they return home.

Microsoft this week said it would devote millions in cash and software to a program designed to train U.S. veterans with IT and other skills to help them re-enter the American job market.

Elevate America: A skills stimulus program

Building on its Elevate America programlaunched last year, Microsoft this week announced it would contribute $2 million in cash and $6 million in software over the next two years in an effort to train troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Microsoft is partnering with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) to start and hopes other organizations and corporations will join the coalition designed to "support active duty service members who are transitioning out of the military as well as members of the National Guard and Reserves who are returning to their civilian jobs," according to Microsoft.

The program, which in February 2009 offered one million vouchers for free training, now hopes to address some 185,000 18- to 24-year-old veterans coming out of the military looking for work, says Andrea Taylor, director of U.S. community affairs for Microsoft. (To date, 300,000 vouchers for the free training have been claimed.)"We thought about the first anniversary of the Elevate America program and how we could this year make it more focused for communities of need," Taylor says. "We wanted to honor the service of these veterans and also improve the chances for these younger workers in a difficult environment because they are really the future of our economy."According to Taylor, 18- to 24-year-olds coming out of the military suffer a 20% higher unemployment rate than those of the same age on average, and with many lacking job experience due to their years of military service, the opportunity to find work could be limited. The Elevate America program will use an RFP process to dole out the $2 million in cash and $6 million in software to organizations, communities and urban groups looking to develop programs to assist veterans with training, such as Microsoft and IT certifications, but also career-building tools like resume-writing and interviewing skills."We have been doing workforce development and skills training for almost 25 years, and it's not just technology skills that people generally need. Training in other skills such as career counseling and other support services will also be offered," Taylor explains. "These may seem like basic skills, but the job market changes rapidly and our veterans have been serving their country and not tracking how to get a job."Today 55% to 60% of jobs require the skills Taylor says Microsoft hopes to pass along to veterans, and in the coming years, potentially 80% of jobs will require that candidates have such computing training. With six job seekers applying for every one available position, U.S. veterans need to be well-prepared, she says."This program is intended to prepare these young and talented people to enter the American workforce because they are the future of our communities. We can't afford to lose any talent in this country," Taylor says.More information for those seeking training, organizations wishing to apply for funds and other companies wanting to partner with Microsoft on its Elevate American program can be found here.Posted by Denise DubieDo you Tweet? Follow Denise Dubie on Twitter here.

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