Microsoft has teamed up with officials in California to offer free or subsidized tech training to thousands of residents of the Golden State.
Under the program, called Elevate America, Microsoft will provide California agencies with 166,500 vouchers that can be used for training courses or for seating at Microsoft's certification exams.
At a press conference Wednesday, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he hopes the program will help ensure the state's competitiveness in the tech industry going forward.
"Our workforce is one of the reasons we are the leader in technology," Schwarzenegger said. "We never rest on our laurels, we should always push for more," he said.
Schwarzenegger said he believes Microsoft's Elevate America program could also help ease California's 13% unemployment rate.
"We want to put people back to work," the governor said. "In high-technology there are a lot of jobs but many people don't have always the skills," said Schwarzenegger. "This is why Microsoft started the program," he added.
Microsoft introduced Elevate America last year and thus far has introduced the program in 12 states in cooperation with local officials. The company has set aside one million e-learning and exam vouchers nationwide for eligible participants, which include students, veterans, entry-level workers, and others.
Microsoft officials have long argued that they are forced to import tech workers from India and other countries on H-1B visas because U.S. schools do not produce enough computer science, math, and engineering graduates to meet their needs.
Critics argue that Microsoft is simply looking for a means to import low-cost workers from overseas. The Bureau of Labor has estimated that that by 2015 about 75% of all jobs in the United States will require, at the least, basic computer literacy and Internet skills.
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