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3000 SA youth to get Microsoft boost

Microsoft has launched a global youth initiative that aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth in more than a hundred countries over the next three years, with 3 000 South Africans set to benefit in the process.

The company-wide initiative, called YouthSpark, was launched last week via a live webcast by Microsoft Corp CEO Steve Ballmer. It aims to connect young people with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship, with a major focus on partnerships with non-profit organisations and NGOs that serve the youth around the world. The company is also launching a range of new youth-focused Citizenship initiatives.

Nyati says over the next three years, Microsoft SA will aim to create in excess of 3 000 opportunities for young people through Youthspark initiatives such as its Student2Business and Student2Government programmes as well as the company’s community technology support programmes and student initiatives. The company has already signed a partnership with the Deputy Presidency and the Department of Higher Education and Training to support youth in the country’s 50 FET Colleges and to develop their technology skills for employment.

‚”In South Africa, our youth is deeply frustrated with the lack of opportunities that exist,‚” said Microsoft SA’s MD, Mteto Nyati . ‚”This was the overwhelming response from an online survey that we ran among the youth of South Africa during the ‚’youth’ month of June earlier this year. We need to act now.‚”

According to the latest StatsSA figures released in August, South Africa’s unemployment rate stands at 24.9%. Of the 4.5-million job seekers, 68% have been searching for employment for over a year. A great concern for Microsoft is the number of South African graduates without jobs.

In response, Microsoft SA has refocused its social investment strategy to help South Africa’s youth overcome the opportunity divide through a single strategy that directly addresses key youth challenges: access to technology, skills for employability and jobs.

Nyati says YouthSpark goes beyond philanthropy and brings together a range of global programmes that empower young people with access to technology and a better education. The technology access programmes for students include locally relevant content, apps and collaboration technologies, including:

· Office365 for EDU: Free technology tools for all students and teachers with internet access to power learning and collaboration. It include features such as email, instant messaging, group video and voice chat, and online document viewing and editing.

· Skype in the Classroom is a free, global community for teachers to connect their students with other students and guest speakers from around the world.

¬∑ Partners in Learning is a professional development programme for government officials, school leaders, and educators to help them with new approaches to teaching and learning, using technology to help students develop 21st century skills. South Africa’s Partners in Learning Programme has reached 30 000 teachers and 3 million students locally in the past three years .

¬∑ DreamSpark provides free access to Microsoft designer and developer tools for students and educators, helping advance key technical skills at a critical time in a student’s development during the high school and college years.

¬∑ Imagine Cup is the world’s premier youth technology competition which challenges students to apply their knowledge and passion to develop technical solutions for social impact, engaging games and to demonstrate innovation that can benefit others, local communities, and the world.

· BizSpark is a software startup program, providing young entrepreneurs with access to Microsoft software development tools and connections with key industry players, including investors, to help them start a new business.

Nyati says Microsoft will also be sharing best practices with other companies on how to develop public-private sector partnership around developing skills and driving job creation, which he believes has the potential to ‚”turbocharge‚” job creation in this country.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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