Everywhere you look, you see the impact of the global recession. The US economy is changing, and with it must our workforce change. Gone are the days when only highly-skilled “right brained” jobs required technology skills. In fact, more than 50 percent of today’s jobs require some technology skills; workforce experts predict this will increase to 77% in the next decade. Today’s reality: jobs in every industry, and at every level, require basic proficiency with computers and other digital technologies.

I’ve written recently about our Elevate America and Microsoft IT Academy programs that help folks increase their technical skills to better compete in the global economy. Today, I’m excited to share that Microsoft is extending the DreamSpark program to high school students worldwide. For over a year, Microsoft has offered university students worldwide access to the latest professional-level developer and designer tools for free…there has been more than 2 million downloads already.

The goal of DreamSpark is to empower students to pursue their academic and professional goals, so they are 100% ready to take their place as the next generation of business leaders. This program eases some pressure from teachers and administrators who are balancing the need for students to gain tech skills with diminishing resources.

High school administrators will need to register their schools to help verify their school as an accredited institution so their students can get access to all the software for free. Check out the DreamSpark website for more information on the program, how to sign up and resources for free training: https://www.dreamspark.com/default.aspx.

I believe students hold the key to long-term economic stability. Mainline access to software means students will learn the skills required of a demanding workplace, which triggers greater creativity and opportunity…greater success…after they graduate. And starting today, we're lifting the cost barrier so any high school or college student anywhere can learn and succeed through technology.