Microsoft Academies to train Salvadoran youth for tech careers

By Jillian Slutzker

July 21, 2015

With the launch of 10 Microsoft IT Academies in 10 of the country’s most violent municipalities, 2,000 at-risk youth will get the tech skills they need for success.

From July to September, the tech company will open the doors of the new training academies offering youth the opportunity to learn basic computer skills and earn certifications as Microsoft Office Specialists or Microsoft Technology Associates.

The IT Academies are part of Microsoft’s partnership with the El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International.

The new IT Academies provide one critical component—vocational training—of the project’s comprehensive approach to reducing crime and violence in at-risk municipalities and creating positive alternatives to gang violence for youth in these high-crime communities.

Microsoft General Manager Gracia Rossi speaking at the launch ceremony on July 16. Photo by Iván Flores.

“While we seek to curb the violence and crime that most Salvadoran communities suffer from, we know that crime control alone is not enough,” said U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Mari Carmen Aponte, speaking at the Microsoft Academies launch ceremony on July 16. “We must offer concrete alternatives to the youth; for example, one of those alternatives is greater access to education, vocational training workshops, life skills and jobs primarily.”

In addition to the U.S. Ambassador, the launch ceremony was attended by Vice Minister of Justice and Security Juan Javier Martinez, Microsoft General Manager Gracia Rossi, USAID El Salvador Director Larry Sacks, mayors and municipal councils from the 10 participating municipalities, Academy Coordinators and representatives from the Crime and Violence Prevention Project, among others.

Local ownership and access to these Academies is key to their success, says El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project Director Harold Sibaja.

“We are establishing the Academies at the municipal level so they can be accessed by the most vulnerable” says Sibaja.

There are currently three Microsoft Academies operating at local universities, says Sibaja, but by the end of September, the project plans to expand the number of Academies nationwide to 13 through the USAID-Microsoft partnership.

Creating pathways to employment

The mayors of all 10 participating municipalities attended the Microsoft IT Academies launch ceremony on July 16. Photo by Iván Flores.

In municipalities with limited employment opportunities and high levels of gang-related crime and violence, the Microsoft IT Academy training will equip youth with sought after tech skills for the job market and confidence to pursue a career path in technology.

“I think we have no doubt that today someone who has a professional certificate in computers has a big advantage in getting a job,” said Ambassador Aponte.

Each Academy will be led by an Academy Coordinator paid by the municipality, who has completed an intensive 200-hour training course funded my Microsoft and USAID. Academy Coordinators will develop training curriculum and be responsible for training 2,000 youth in the first year. They will also direct the local Municipal Vocational Centers, where the Academies will be housed.

Jesus Alvarado, one of the ten Microsoft IT Academy coordinators is committed to his role in bringing greater opportunity to youth in his community and says the work of these academies will transform lives.

“This day is the start of a commitment to serve the youth of our municipalities and our country…. we can transform lives, create dreams and move our communities forward,” he said at the launch ceremony.

“We Are With You” partnerships expand

The new Microsoft IT Academies are part of a larger private sector partnership initiative with the Crime and Violence Prevention Project, known as “Estamos con vos” (“We are with You”). Microsoft was the project’s first private sector partner under this initiative.

“It is good that companies like Microsoft have now joined in this effort to find alternative jobs for our young people in the country,” said Vice-Minister of Justice and Security Juan Javier Martinez.

Through this partnership, the Microsoft Corporation will provide more than $647,000 to the Academies to cover the costs of membership, trainers and training materials.

The Crime and Violence Prevention Project will support the Microsoft Academies with more than $136,000 in grants to carry out the trainings and cover the costs of proficiency exam fees for students. The 10 participating municipalities will provide an additional $90,000, which will secure the licenses for the Microsoft Software and coordinators’ salaries.

The project’s coalition of private sector partners also includes La Prensa Gráfica, one of El Salvador’s largest circulating daily newspapers, and Claro El Salvador, a major national mobile, television and Internet service provider.

With reporting by Ivan Flores

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