REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) today announced a major step toward addressing the information technology (IT) worker shortage by extending training and education opportunities to disadvantaged individuals. Together with the American Association of Community Colleges, Microsoft announced seven new grant winners in its $7 million, five-year Working Connections program, which funds and supports the development of innovative IT programs at community colleges across the country. The Working Connections program helps disadvantaged people obtain the skills they need to enter and be successful in the IT work force. It accomplishes this by supporting IT certification and degree programs at the community college level, with the goal of matching curriculum and resources with employment needs in the local business community. "While the IT worker shortage is certainly a national problem, the best solutions are often found on a local level," said Barbara Dingfield, director of community affairs, Microsoft. "What I like about this program is that it is a win-win situation for everyone: Disadvantaged people get the training they need to find lucrative jobs in the technology sector, and businesses get the skilled workers they need to keep their computer and communications systems running." The seven Working Connections colleges listed below join eight original grantees, two of which represent college consortia, which were announced in February 1998 and currently have pilot programs under way. * Camden County College, Blackwood, N.J. * Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif. * Frederick Community College, Frederick, Md. * Metropolitan Community College, Omaha, Neb. * New Hampshire Community Technical College System (four-college consortium), Concord, N.H. * South Texas Community College, McAllen, Texas * Wallace Community College, Selma, Ala. The 1999 cash grants range in size from $170,000 to $260,000, for a total of $1,645,000. Additional software grants and training will be provided throughout the year. The colleges will use the funds to train faculty, purchase equipment, and recruit and support disadvantaged students who want to participate in the program. Including the five 1998 Working Connections mentor colleges, which provide guidance and support to all Working Connections colleges, a total of 28 community colleges are involved in the program to date. "One of the most important things Working Connections does is provide diverse communities with access to high technology," said Mete Kok, Working Connections project director for the Borough of Manhattan Community College, one of the 1998 grantees. "For most of my students, this is their only access to computers or the Internet. They stay after class just to play. They are hungry for knowledge." "The momentum we're already seeing from the first round of grants is extraordinary," said David R. Pierce, president of the American Association of Community Colleges. "The keys to success have been strong partnerships with local businesses and government agencies, as well as the ability to identify and support students from diverse and often disadvantaged backgrounds." The American Association of Community Colleges represents more than 1,100 community colleges and their more than 10 million students, almost half of all undergraduates enrolled in U.S. colleges. Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day. NOTE: Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries. Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.
SOURCE Microsoft Corp.