Since launching in November 2013, the Washington State Library/Microsoft IT Academy has seen a steady increase in enrollees statewide, and is making a powerful impact for thousands of Washingtonians.
In fact, the IT Academy broke the 10,000 mark for enrollees in September. As of the end of November, it has nearly 12,000 users statewide, accessing more than 400 courses.
The IT Academy program can help prepare enrollees for jobs and careers in a global economy that is becoming more tech-dependent. You can access the Microsoft IT Academy for free through your local public, community college or tribal library and start taking courses in minutes. Go here to see a list of participating libraries. Here is a representative list of the 400 courses available to Washington residents through the IT Academy.
Enrollees can take courses on any computer with Internet access that supports Flash technology. Courses are offered on three basic levels: digital literacy, for those who need basic skills such as using a mouse or sending e-mails; e-learning courses that support Microsoft Office suites; and courses leading to professional technology certifications.
Many IT Academy enrollees like the courses. Craig Barnes of Spokane wrote:
“I recently took an IT Academy course on Microsoft Office. I took the course for self-improvement and to update my knowledge of the MS Office apps and to be able to do more with the current versions. I found the course to be ideal and most useful for a student/person who was at a beginner level and favored visual and/or aural styles of learning. The quality of the video and audio on the lessons was excellent and the pace brisk. There is also the ability to print out a certificate at the end that confirms or verifies your completion of the course. Finally, the qualifications of the instructor(s) are also excellent and more than enough. All in all, it was a good course, and it was free!”
A Timberland Regional Library staffer offered this report:
“One patron, who told me he has always had trouble in school because of ADHD, had taken nine IT Academy courses and was very happy that he had actually learned something and could remember it. Because it was self-paced, he relaxed and learned, rather than tensed up and panicked.”
Certification to show proficiency in Office software – the Microsoft Office Specialist – is available, but the participant pays for it. Discounts are now available, says Elizabeth Iaukea, the State Library’s coordinator for the IT Academy.
Iaukea says as many as 30 libraries will serve as testing sites by the end of the year for IT Academy enrollees wanting to take a certification test. Go here to see where users can take the certification test.
“Being certified in Microsoft Office or other IT-related course program is a bonus for employees because they can prove they have those skills,” Iaukea said. “In addition to validating their Office skills, it shows an employer that they have good time management skills and are self-motivated.”
Iaukea said that each testing site set its own fees, up to $50, to take the certification test, thanks to a special group purchase and heavy discount offered by our Microsoft partner. Before this program, the certification tests cost about $125 each, she added.
“We want certification to be both affordable and convenient – and to spread awareness among employers and job seekers about the value of a credential that independently verifies the person’s knowledge and ability with the software,” Iaukea said.
“The IT Academy helps current workers and job seekers improve their IT skills and knowledge, which gives them an edge in an economy where computer skills are so important,” Iaukea said.
Iaukea cited a recent study in which employers listed Microsoft Office as the third most requested job skill for all U.S. occupations, after oral and written communication skills and being detail oriented.
The IT Academy is possible thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and the Washington State Library approved by the Legislature and Gov. Inslee. Secretary of State Kim Wyman said the new collaboration reflects a tech-savvy, forward-thinking Washington State Library that continues to help local libraries better serve people in their communities.
“Our State Library is committed to providing meaningful services that really benefit people throughout Washington, and the IT Academy is a great example,” Wyman said. “We’re excited that nearly 12,000 people in our state have taken courses, and we expect even more people in our state to take advantage of this great training opportunity.
“We are delighted that this cost-effective program is making a real difference in people’s lives – students, job-seekers, returning military veterans, public employees and others.”
Wyman said her office will be strongly supporting Microsoft’s request for the governor and Legislature to reauthorize the popular program in the new budget. The appropriation, heavily matched by Microsoft, is for $1.5 million.