Microsoft announced Monday -- the first day of National Education Week -- that the state of North Carolina has signed up for the software giant's certification program for high-school students.
In fact, North Carolina is also the first state in the nation to join the program.
The Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) IT Academy Program is designed to provide students with technical skills, including training and testing that will let them earn Microsoft certifications, which they will be able to use after high school.
Under the program, high-school students are able to earn Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) and Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certificates.
"Microsoft IT Academy is a comprehensive program that helps support ongoing technology education for a wide range of students, teachers, and faculty. The program features access to software licenses, E-Learning, official Microsoft course materials, and certifications," according to company statements.
The company claims some 9,000 IT Academy members spread across 100 countries worldwide.
"The North Carolina Department of Instruction will roll out the Microsoft IT Academy program to all high schools across the state of North Carolina at no charge to the high schools," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.comin an e-mail.
Last summer, Microsoft expanded its student certificationsto college students who are not IT-majors.
Microsoft executives, along with the North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction, June Atkinson, as well as State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison, announced the deal.
"We are excited to partner with North Carolina as the first state in the nation to deploy the Microsoft IT Academy to every high school and to help equip students with the IT skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow," Siegfried Behrens, Microsoft general manager for U.S. education, said in a statement.
So far, North Carolina is piloting the program at 37 high schools statewide.
Twenty more select schools will field test the program beginning in January. Overall, all of the state's 628 public high schools plan to offer the certification program by the beginning of the 2011/2012 school year.
"By the fall of 2011, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is recommending that all high schools use the Microsoft IT Academy curriculum in teaching their students Computer Applications I, a course in the Career and Technical Education Standard Course of Study," the company statements said.