Microsoft unveils job initiative in California


Amid rising unemployment, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday unveiled a training initiative funded by Microsoft Corp. that gives California residents free access to Microsoft’s online computer courses and certification exams.

Microsoft said it would distribute 166,500 vouchers that could be redeemed online for courses that range from basic computer training -- such as Web navigation -- to more formal professional certifications in Microsoft Office applications, including Outlook, Excel and Access.

Schwarzenegger, who made the announcement from Microsoft’s Silicon Valley office in Mountain View, said the technology training was necessary to put more people back to work in technical skills, alluding to the state’s current unemployment rate, which rose to 12.5% in January.

“This is a really high number, and we have to do something about it immediately,” Schwarzenegger said. “The time for action is now. I think we see here that Microsoft has jumped into action and they are creating this public-private partnership. They are handing out those vouchers. They are doing something about it.”

The governor said the vouchers would be distributed by the state’s Employment Development Department. Microsoft is paying for the program, but the state will pay the bill for distributing the vouchers.

Depending on the course, a student can take Microsoft’s business certification exam. There are also vouchers available in advanced-level training for those seeking professional advancement, including courses in data management and Web development.

More than 475,000 vouchers have been distributed in the 13 states where Microsoft’s program, Elevate America, has been launched. Microsoft expects more states to roll out the program in the coming months.