Employment Security Dep’t: Some help for the unemployed
It may not come as a surprise to those of you who follow my scrutiny of our state’s $2 billion a biennium in technology spending, but the Department of Employment Security, the state agency charged with helping people get a job, has not been my favorite agency. The reason is their rabid insistence on building their questionably expensive, proprietary, ‘silo’ of a new $52 million-plus or minus computer system. I think that decision is bad policy, bad economics and bad technology. But today I can’t help but to make a strong statement of support for their announcement of a unique technology partnership with Microsoft to make training programs available–for free–to our state’s unemployed.
This partnership, by which Microsoft provides free training for all of their tutorials to those seeking employment help, is more than the Redmond-based company selling a standard product. It’s a creative approach to a very serious need.
According to the Seattlepi.com: “The $350,000 contract is the first of its kind — Microsoft has never made all of its tutorials available via an unemployment agency, said Jeff Johnson, the company’s North America academic lead for the Microsoft IT Academy program. He said that despite the price tag, the program is “worth millions.”
To be eligible for the training courses, people must register with the state’s WorkSource career-development program. Courses are available for all Microsoft software, from Windows and Office to SQL Server and Windows Server.”
Regardless of the job category, unemployed folks need strong and focused training. From government to IT to health care and transportation, a strong background in the intelligent use of technology is a vital piece of retraining for so many industries. This partnership helps. A lot.
This is exactly the type of ‘systems thinking’ I have been seeking to support both within and outside of the technology field in state government. For a state agency to purchase an ‘enterprise license’, in effect, from a provider such as Microsoft and then make the full range of programs and benefits available to citizens for free is a win-win-win. It’s a win for taxpayers, a win for the state and a win for the users. Microsoft actually wins, too, because while the purchase price is much lower than normal, the ability to support their programs and realize value from a more coordinated approach makes their offerings more compelling.
This is the type of policy and program that we need to deliver not only to the public, but to our own state employees so they too can improve the quality of their training. State employees are a tremendous resource but no organization can recruit and retain great employees without strong training and professional development opportunities.
I offer my sincere and genuine congratulations and appreciation to the state Employment Security Department folks for making this initiative work. And my thanks to Microsoft for changing their business model to adapt to today’s financial and economic realities.
For those, like me, who are quick to push, prod and agitate for improvements in how state government operates, this is a compelling step forward.
Your partner in service,
(Disclosure: Microsoft has contributed to my political campaigns)