It seems like yesterday that I joined legislators and business leaders over at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh to officially launch North Carolina’s Microsoft IT Academy. At the time, Leesville was one of just 37 high schools in the state that were piloting this online program in which students and teachers could gain skills in Microsoft applications and earn professional credentials for free.
Even in those early days, I knew that North Carolina was on to something special.
The enthusiasm I saw from teachers and students who spoke on that day about their experience with the Microsoft IT Academy was exciting. Teachers loved the course content. Students said that the program helped them to realize that they wanted to attend college and pursue a career in technology. Some even called their experience with Academy “life changing.”
The following year, our state made history when we became the first in the nation to offer the program in high schools statewide.
While the Academy’s early success was promising, I had no idea that just five years later, we would be celebrating students and teachers for earning an incredible 200,000 professional credentials through the Microsoft IT Academy.
As a former Career and Technical Education teacher, I know how important these courses and credentials are to students as they plan for the future and look for jobs in such a competitive market.
I remember walking up and down the streets of Charlotte many years ago looking for businesses that were willing to hire my students. Convincing a company CEO why he or she should hire a student right out of high school, even if it was just for a part-time job or internship, was sometimes a tough sell. If we had the Microsoft IT Academy back then and my students could have earned these valuable credentials, my job would have been much easier!
I cannot put a dollar value on the marketable job skills and self-confidence students gain or to the professional development and credentials teachers can access through the Microsoft IT Academy. But I can say that this program has saved North Carolina educators, students and their families more than $20 million in certification expenses over the past five years. Now that is a return on investment.
We could not have reached this level of success without our outstanding partners, Microsoft and Certiport. The Microsoft IT Academy is a perfect example of what can happen when business and education come together to support students. I know our partners join me in looking forward to celebrating 500,000 and even one million certifications in the years to come.
For more information, here is the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s webpage on the Microsoft IT Academy.