Army Partnership Creates First Military-Based Microsoft Academy

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The U.S. Army and Microsoft have partnered to create a Microsoft IT Academy at Fort Gordon in Georgia. The academy is intended to “skill up” soldiers on the company’s leading technologies.

This partnership was inked on May 13, when Fort Gordon leaders signed an agreement with Microsoft to establish the academy. This is the first of its kind to be located on a military installation. Fort Gordon was chosen for this endeavor because it already is established as a site of IT development.

“Fort Gordon is the U.S. Army School of Information Technology, so it’s a center of excellence for the military in terms of training individuals who will go out into the force to perform a specific set of information technology tasks, [such as] networking administration [and] core infrastructure support roles,” said Jim LeValley, global education programs director at Microsoft Learning.

According to Microsoft, the Army partnership provides a number of benefits for both parties.

“We [Microsoft] see it as a great validation for us on the rigor of our content and certification programs, as well as the broad applicability of those programs,” said Chris Pirie, general manager of global sales and marketing at Microsoft Learning. “We are excited about bringing industry-strength training and certification into the academic and noncommercial world.

“[Soldiers] come into this [program] because it’s their military occupation specialty: They will be working with technology, and they’re trained on that technology in a very sophisticated and specific manner to perform their role within the military,” he explained.

The course content at the academy will focus on skills unique to military roles. Ultimately, though, about 2,500 soldiers each year will gain Microsoft certifications and enjoy the advantages of being certified professionals just as any civilians might. “The students who obtain a certification basically get the opportunity to join a thriving community of millions of other Microsoft-certified professionals around the world,” said Pirie.

The institution and instructors will see benefits, as well. “They get a comprehensive set of e-learning courses from us — over 250 e-learning courses that can be used in either the direct context of the courses that they’re teaching or as distance learning tools or as remediation tools with the soldiers that are coming to the program,” said LeValley.

“We provide a wide range of software technologies, including virtualization technologies, that [are] designed to simulate certain teaching environments,” he added. This cuts down on time and financial costs, as it reduces the need for hardware in developing students’ fluency on the technologies.

Additionally, all academy instructors become members of the Microsoft Certified Trainer program. The program provides perks “not only in their personal and professional development, but it provides them a tool set they can use to reach out to students,” said LeValley.

These opportunities will be extended to other military branches in the not-so-distant future. LeValley confirmed that the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy all have expressed interest in developing their own Microsoft academies.

“We’re pleasantly surprised by how the military is embracing certification across all branches of the service,” he said.

Pirie added: “We love the Fort Gordon story and the increasing engagement of the military around our certification programs. It really correlates skill within certification on Microsoft technology with employability and opportunity for people around the world.”

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Meagan Polakowski

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