State, county promoting Microsoft training grants

Since November, Clayton County officials have been working with the state to make Clayton a Certified Work Ready Community by evaluating and adding to the job skills of local residents. Now, through vouchers made available through Microsoft and the Georgia Work Ready program, citizens will be able to add Microsoft training and certification to their resumes, free of charge.

Gov. Sonny Perdue recently announced the state's participation in the Microsoft Elevate America program, a public-private partnership between Microsoft and several states, to provide free technology training to potential job seekers.

Through the partnership, Georgia residents will have access to 11,500 vouchers for Microsoft Windows and Office online training, 11,500 vouchers for the Microsoft Business Certification Exam (MBCE), and 2,900 vouchers for advanced technical online training, for individuals seeking careers such as those involving web development and database management.

Randall Toussaint, assistant director of the Clayton County Economic Development Department, said that in January, Georgia became the 10th state to join the Microsoft Elevate America program. He said the county has been directing local citizens to apply for the vouchers through the Georgia Work Ready web site (www.gaworkready.org) and the Clayton Career Resource Center in Morrow.

"It's a tremendous resource to allow for computer literacy to take place within our community," Toussaint said. "We're in an interesting situation now, where we have more skilled persons who are in the job search market. As a result, people who are competing for jobs have to compete at a much higher level than several years ago. The reason those vouchers are significant is because it will allow residents to become certified with their technology skills. In today's workforce, that can definitely give somebody an edge."

Toussaint said the Microsoft Windows and Office online training program helps individuals become adept in commonly used Microsoft programs, while the MBCE tests an individual's use of those skills.

Debra Lyons, director of the Governor's Office of Workforce Development, said in the couple of weeks the Microsoft Elevate America program has been available, the governor's office has already received 11,000 applications for vouchers and processed 6,000. She said all of the state's vouchers must be distributed by April 22.

"Technology is permeating into every occupation there is," Lyons said. "You can't even fill out a job application now if you don't know how to use a computer. We thought that this was a very generous offer from Microsoft. The stronger your computer skills, the more versatile you are in the jobs that you are able to fill."

According to Toussaint, the grants are being on a "first-come, first-served" basis, with some preference given to the unemployed. People can apply for the grants online at www.gaworkready.org or by visiting the Clayton Career Resource Center, located at 3000 Corporate Center Drive, Suite 350 in Morrow.