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Microsoft aims to 'Elevate America'

Amid the severe economic conditions, Microsoft is announcing a program to give technology training to up to 2 million Americans.

Microsoft is announcing on Sunday a job training effort aimed at giving technical skills to as many as 2 million Americans over the next three years.

The most significant part of the program, in which Microsoft is offering free certification and other technical training, is being done in a phased approach, starting with Washington state. The second component of "Elevate America," available online immediately, is a Web site designed to help people with the basics such as creating a resume and send e-mail.

Passman Microsoft

"Millions of individuals don't have the technology skills needed in today's economy. Through Elevate America, we want to help workers get the skills they need to succeed," Pamela Passman, Microsoft's VP for corporate affairs, said in a statement.

Microsoft's move comes as the United States has shed millions of jobs, a small number of which came from Microsoft itself as the company announced its first companywide layoffs last month.

As part of the Elevate America program, Microsoft is working with state and local governments and hopes to offer 1 million vouchers for e-learning and certification classes.

"At the federal, state and local level, leaders are working together to help start the engine of economic growth. The private sector provides much of the spark needed to jump-start that engine," Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement. "Washington state is pleased to be the first state to partner with Microsoft to provide Elevate America to our residents."

It is not clear just how much the program will cost Microsoft. "The total value of the investments will depend on the number of vouchers that will be utilized, and the mix of courses and certifications taken," a company representative said in an e-mail. "The investment also includes cash grant and software donations to community-based organizations to enhance their technology capacity to deliver these programs."