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Channel Partnership Tackles Skills Gap with STEM Scholarship Fund

Finding and hiring skilled workers is a growth-inhibiting challenge for Microsoft partners -- and it's likely to get worse before it gets better. Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Code.org estimates that by 2020, there will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them.

In an effort to help Microsoft partners bridge that daunting gap, the U.S. arm of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP-US) has joined forces with Voices for Innovation (VFI) to launch a STEM scholarship fund. The IAMCP Rudy Rodriguez STEM Scholarship will award $2,500 scholarships to IAMCP-US members and their families in support of STEM-related, post-secondary school expenses.

"The original idea grew from work IAMCP-US is doing in conjunction with VFI, specifically around STEM education," said Randy Steinle, IAMCP-US president. "That work has been twofold. One is to support young people attending the many high schools in the country that still don't offer computer science classes. Secondly, we were looking at the issues around workforce training. Looking at re-educating the workforce to help fill some of the gaps."

The scholarship was named to honor IAMCP-US President Emeritus Rudy Rodriguez. "Rudy has always been involved in education and is very passionate about people having access," said Steinle. "It was a natural thing to marry this initiative that we're all pretty passionate about with honoring a person we're all pretty passionate about, and doing some good for the community."

IAMCP has engaged Scholarship America to administer the scholarship program to provide professional and objective management of the funds. Through professional administration, partner organizations will be able to take full advantage of opportunities like corporate matching. And to ensure scholarships are awarded objectively, Scholarship America will determine eligibility and select candidates based on the criteria set by the IAMCP-US scholarship committee.

The scholarship program was announced at this year's Microsoft Inspire conference in Washington, D.C., and target goals have already exceeded expectations.

"Our goal was to raise $7,500 to get this started and we have over $10,000," said Steinle. "In addition, we have significant commitments that will come in once the final paperwork is completed with Scholarship America to open the fund to the public. It's really been exciting."

"VFI has really gotten behind this effort because of the work that they're doing around STEM education, to provide access at all different levels," added Steinle. "From retraining veterans and access to computer science education in high schools, there's a lot of areas where VFI is making an impact."

VFI is a Microsoft-supported community of technology professionals and everyday Americans who help advance technology, IT job growth and businesses of all sizes. According to its Web site, the organization is 90,000 supporters strong and focused on four primary issues: computer science education, data privacy, TV white space and intellectual property. 

The organization provides educational resources, as well as guidance on active advocacy, like tools to help people compose e-mails to government representatives.

The IAMCP Rudy Rodriguez STEM Scholarship is a valuable benefit of membership in the organization and an important step in the right direction for the Microsoft partner channel. More initiatives like the scholarship are sorely needed to fill the growing skills gap that will have an increasing impact on the channel.

Is your organization taking creative steps to attract and train employees? Tell me about it and let's share the knowledge.

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Posted by Barb Levisay on August 10, 2017 at 3:27 PM