Virginia and Microsoft have partnered once again – not surprisingly as both are IT leaders who realize staying at the top requires investing in the future. This time, that investment takes the form of educating the Commonwealth’s public high school students as Virginia is only the third state in the nation to implement the Microsoft IT Academy Program. With an aggressive goal of full participation by the end of this school year, the program will support both students and teachers by making software and coursework available including everything from computer basics to programming to the opportunity to earn recognized Microsoft certifications.
Virginia is certainly no stranger to technology with the highest concentration of high-tech companies in the country according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Microsoft has demonstrated its understanding of Virginia’s pro-technology climate through the 2010 announcement of its investment of up to $499 million to locate its latest generation data center in Southern Virginia’s Mecklenburg County. This was followed by a recent announcement that the company would invest $150 million to expand this advanced data center and add 21 MW of electric power capacity.
The groundwork to attract Microsoft’s data center and support its educational offering for all Virginians was quite literally laid several years ago by the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative. In an effort to support underserved rural areas in Southern Virginia, MBC established an 800 mile open-access, fiber-optic broadband network. While this advanced network has attracted a flurry of Gigaparks and technology companies to the former tobacco region, the network will also provide high-speed internet access to more than 100 schools in Southern Virginia through a federal broadband stimulus program.
Beginning this school year, students in two Southern Virginia counties have been equipped with high speed broadband for the first time. Jumping from 45 Mbps to 100 Mbps is a significant leap that allows students and teachers to take full advantage of the internet, specifically improving video streaming and online collaboration. Establishing high speed connectivity in rural areas like Southern Virginia sets the stage for Microsoft’s IT Academy to be successful. This will be truly be a statewide program, allowing students everywhere to take full advantage of Microsoft’s online resources in order to build the technical skills necessary to fuel Virginia’s booming IT industry.