Elevate America report offers lessons on employability

When Gloria Pulido lost her job, she lost her only source of income and ended up living in her car with her teenage son. As Gloria looked for community resources to help get her life back on track, she discovered the Microsoft Elevate America state voucher program.

Through a partnership between Microsoft and California, she was able to take no-cost Microsoft Office training and a Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam, which she successfully passed. By combining these new skills with her existing experience she turned a part-time job into a full-time position, and, more importantly, a new home.

Gloria’s story is one of those included in a newly released report that shares the lessons we’ve learned from launching the Microsoft Elevate America voucher program in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Over 18 months we distributed more than 800,000 no cost Microsoft training and certification vouchers to help people across the United States get the skills they need to be prepared for 21st century jobs.

The Elevate America voucher program was adopted by states facing a variety of challenges as a result of the economic crisis – different rates of unemployment, urban and rural communities – providing great insights into both the challenges and the complexity of helping people find employment in today’s economy.

There were a number of interesting trends:

• Men less likely to participate: Men comprised the majority of the unemployed workforce in 2009, but women accounted for 54 percent of Elevate America participants.

• Training used heavily by individuals aged 36-50: 39 percent of those who took advantage of the free training were in the 36-50 year-old age range.

• Program attracted individuals with post-secondary education: Nearly half of the voucher recipients had at least a two-year degree and 70 percent had some post-secondary education.

• Internet access affects success: Three factors coincided with higher activation rates of the vouchers: higher per capita Workforce Investment Act funding, a greater proportion of urban residents and a greater proportion of households with Internet access.

• Tailored assessments lead to implementation: Career-center based distribution of the vouchers served a greater proportion of unemployed workers – 70 percent compared to 57 percent who received vouchers electronically. However, career centers typically serve those with below-average technology abilities.

To encourage career center clients to utilize the free training, a clear assessment to direct them to appropriate training is necessary. Some career centers encouraged participants to take a basic computer literacy course to qualify.

The report offers an insight into workforce development programs. It also includes data provided by the local workforce boards, in-depth interviews with the people who devote their working days to helping people find employment – and the people who benefit from those services.

About the Author

Director of Community Affairs in North America, Microsoft