Get Online Week 2014: How Microsoft helps young people follow their dreams

Muriel Surmely had a rocky start in life and was disengaged in school, dropping out by age 15. After years of dead end jobs, she decided to follow her love of IT by enrolling in Web@cademie, a Microsoft-sponsored program that provides free, two-year web development training for high school dropouts to help prepare them for skilled tech jobs. With her new competences, Muriel landed an amazing internship at Microsoft France, where she quickly mastered new skills such as C#, a general programming language, and .NET, a software framework.

Francois Benthanane, founder of Web@cademie, was so impressed with Muriel’s ICT knowhow and sense of resilience that he invited her to share her story at a Microsoft France seminar. This journey helped her turn her life around and land a job as a developer at Microsoft partner, Infinite Square, thus avoiding the fate of around 1.9 million French youth who are unemployed or not taking part in any educational programs (INSEE 2013). What makes her story so inspiring is that it shows how developing e-skills can transform someone’s life. In fact, the EU estimates that by 2020 as much as 90% of jobs in the EU will require digital skills (European Commission, 2013), so getting exposure to the right training can significantly boost employability.

At Microsoft, we’re committed to the promotion of e-skills across Europe, and we’re proud to support ‘Get Online Week’, an annual campaign that encourages people across the region to learn tech skills that can enhance all parts of their lives. This year’s campaign, which kicks-off on March 24, aims to help people develop digital skills for the workplace and use the internet more confidently. Of course, our commitment to e-skills education continues throughout the year. And personally, meeting the people whose lives are changed as a result of our work is one of the most gratifying parts of my job.

Another remarkable story centres on Holly, Shauna and Kayleigh, three Welsh 14 year-old students, a great example of incredible young people across Europe actively developing strong ICT skills. Last year, they entered Kodu Kup, a competition for UK students where entrants are asked to create a computer game with a clear storyline, strong characters and a detailed playing environment. The trio created ‘Welcome to The Dark Side of Mars’, a role-playing game, which combined their love of horror movies and games. To create their game, each girl took on a different role: lead programmer, narrative lead, design lead. They gave a fantastic presentation, and were over the moon when one of the judges leapt up in surprise as a monster stepped into the beam of a flashlight while he played. As a result, the girls gained confidence in programming and design, public speaking and teamwork, lifelong skills that will benefit them, whether they pursue careers in tech or not. As Shauna says, “We learned about confidence. Without it, you might not get very far”.

Microsoft also offers a range of programs that help young people develop the digital savvy they need to compete in today’s job market. In 2012, we launched YouthSpark, a global initiative that aims to create opportunities for education, employment, entrepreneurship for 300 million youth. An example of our work is the Microsoft Get On program, a three year project which aims to help young people in the United Kingdom get inspired, get skilled, and get jobs, which Kodu Kup is part of. And our Digigirlz program offers female students the opportunity to meet women working in the tech sector, get hands on with tech, and learn about career opportunities.

If you’re a student or you have a young person in your life who wants to strengthen his or her ICT knowledge, please visit Get Online Week for more information on upcoming opportunities. Otherwise, there are excellent resources available through Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum.

Greater access to technology and training can help young people realise their potential, regardless of their personal or professional goals. I’m excited to hear about more success stories from all of the people touched by initiatives like Get Online Week and those programs we drive throughout the year.

About the Author

President, Microsoft International

Jean-Philippe Courtois leads global sales, marketing, and services for Microsoft International, a territory that spans more than 110 subsidiaries operating outside the United States and Canada.