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Microsoft Expands IT Certification Program

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Microsoft is reaching out to nonprofit organizations in an effort to expand a jobs program it started that's designed to provide easy access to technology training to Americans in need of employment.

The move is the next step in Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Elevate America initiative, which the company began in February 2009.

"Today we are issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for nonprofits that have demonstrated expertise in providing employment services with a focus on technology skills training, job placement and related support to connect individuals to sustainable jobs and careers," Pamela Passman, corporate vice president of Microsoft Global Corporate Affairs, said in a post to the Microsoft on the Issuesblog, Thursday.

To date, Passman said, Microsoft has distributed more than 800,000 training and certification vouchers for Microsoft products in some 32 states under its Elevate America aegis.

In March, the company also started an Elevate America initiative to help returning veteransgain technology job skills, donating $2 million in cash and as much as $6 million in software to the program.

The latest expansion is referred to as the Elevate America community initiative grant program.

"Following the selection process we are committing $4 million in cash, [and] $6 million worth of software and training curriculum to support the successful applicants over the next two years," Passman said.

"The consistent theme across all our Elevate America programs is the necessity for partnership to be at the very core of addressing what is a complex and difficult issue," she added. Thus the RFP.

IT Professionals in training

If it's successful, the program could be a model for how other companies can help beat back the current recession and the record unemployment that accompanies it. With the Elevate America programs, Microsoft said it hopes to educate some of the next generation of IT professionals.

In order to participate, an organization competing for grants must be registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit. Organizations can include workforce agencies, community colleges, labor organizations, and other nonprofit organizations, Passman said.

The deadline for submitting proposals is October 8, 2010 at 5 p.m. Pacific time, according to the Elevate America site. Winners will be announced in January.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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