Microsoft: Innovation in Education Crucial for Reversing IT Skills Gap

High-tech jobs are going unfilled at Microsoft and other IT companies. Microsoft is investing in programs to help today's student land those positions.

Amid the backdrop of the Education World Forum (EWF) and the British Education Technology & Training (BETT) Show, Microsoft is detailing how the Redmond, Wash.-based company is leveraging technology to help advance education and prepare students for tomorrow's in-demand IT jobs.

EWF is an invitation-only conference that focuses on furthering innovations in teaching and "debating future practice in education," according to the group's Website. Sponsors include Microsoft, Intel and HP.

Calling his company's commitment to education "unmatched and unwavering," Microsoft's Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education, indicated in a blog post that his company is experiencing the effects of an IT skills gap. "We know first-hand about the growing challenge of finding enough skilled workers to fill the jobs we need filled.

"We are in a unique position to address this challenge, and we intend to play a leading role in the solution," added Salcito.

Admitting "that technology itself will not transform education," the company has advocated for and partnered with educators, administrators and students for over 25 years, said Salcito. Those decades of experience have helped contribute to a handful of education outreach programs.

Salcito shared some of the progress Microsoft and its partners have made on some key initiatives. Among them is a program that leverages mobile technologies to help spread IT know-how.

Microsoft announced that it is working with UNESCO, the World Bank's Global Partnership for Education and leading NGOs "to deliver innovative digital literacy services using mobile devices and literacy education, even in the absence of a literate parent or peer."

The company also announced that the Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) Exam and the Teaching with Technology e-learning curriculum will soon be available in several other languages, namely Spanish, Brazilian, Portuguese, Arabic, Indonesian and Mandarin. The coursework, according to Salcito, "continues to see growing interest in countries and institutions where supporting and validating educator competencies to use ICTs in teaching and learning is a critical policy goal."

Microsoft has also partnered with Intel, Pearson and interactive learning specialist Promethean for the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning program. The effort, which includes input from 1,000 schools, "seeks to identify the ways in which systemic change can be implemented to allow students to connect and flourish in today's world."

Finally, the company is backing the Collaborative Assessment Alliance (CAA) with Intel, Promethean and the Educational Testing Service. Based on research gleaned from the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ACT21S) project, "CAA engages with local organizations to help design, create, test and deploy individual assessments tasks," with the aim of putting local schools "at the leading edge of digital assessment."

When it comes to investing in education, Microsoft has even lent its own software to the cause. In December, the company launched its Student Advantage program. The offer provides students with free access to Office 365 ProPlus, provided that their schools or universities already license Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...