Microsoft Increases Computer Training Funding

    February 3, 2006

The “Wizard of Redmond” better known as Bill Gates announced this week Microsoft would increase funding for its Unlimited Potential (UP) program while delivering the keynote address at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum Europe in Lisbon, Portugal.

He pledged to increase funding by some $25.2 million to a new total of $152 million in cash and software for community technology centers (CTC). These CTCs provide basic technology skills and job training in underserved communities around the globe. This latest round of grants will support 126 nonprofit organizations that are expanding existing programs or opening new CTCs in 64 countries.

“Access to training and technology skills is a key success factor in creating employment opportunities in underserved communities,” Gates said. “Europe’s unemployed are a major concern of governments we are working with, and our Unlimited Potential grants are supporting innovative partnerships that bring new skills to those who need them.”

The new round of UP grants – the sixth since the program debuted in May 2003 – provide $25.2 million in cash and software for community technology training programs around the world. One example is the recently announced Technology, Innovation and Initiative (TII) program, a pioneering new project developed in conjunction with the Technological Centre for the Textile and Clothing Industries (CITEVE) of Portugal to provide workers in Portugal’s textile industry with new skills and qualifications to enhance their long-term employability prospects. The TII project is a three-year initiative to train at least 3,000 workers from Portugal’s textile sector, which is being significantly affected by increasing global competition, with an estimated 20,000 people in the sector already unemployed.

“Boosting employment and access to training and skills for older workers and the young unemployed is one of the European Union’s key objectives,” said Vladimir Spidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

“The European Commission’s growth and jobs strategy aims to equip 20 million Europeans with new skills for new and better jobs by 2010. It is vital that the Members States and private companies work together to help make this happen. I’d like to commend CITEVE, Microsoft and the local and national government here in Portugal for this innovative partnership that creates a best-practice example for others.”

“The benefits of technology training extend far beyond the individual who attends the courses at the centers – they improve the social and economic opportunities of entire families, businesses and communities,” said Pamela Passman, vice president of Global Corporate Affairs at Microsoft. “These grants support the hard work of our local partners to provide the tools and training to foster true economic empowerment in all types of communities, from small, rural villages to urban areas in developed regions.”

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John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.