YouthSpark’s first year: we are well underway to empowering 300 million young people

Today is a big day as we mark the first year of progress and impact of Microsoft’s global YouthSpark initiative!

I still remember how hopeful and enthusiastic I was when we launched the programme a year ago, and I am very happy that new and expanded technology education and skills training programs for youth will continue going forward, building upon the opportunities created for 103 million youth over the past 12 months.

Young people are at the core of our economy, of our innovation, of our future. Not investing in them would be catastrophic and, at Microsoft, we feel a strong responsibility to act. As we see opportunities for digital jobs increase, we are confident that we have an even greater role to play.
In order to continue our focus on giving youth a head start in gaining the critical technology skills that are required for today’s jobs, Microsoft today launched a new game-based and interactive digital literacy curriculum for Office 2013 on the YouthSpark Hub.

Through this online curriculum, youth around the world have free access – anytime and anywhere – to learning the basics of word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and databases. The YouthSpark Hub also includes training materials and videos from Microsoft partners, such as the Khan Academy and the Sprout e-course from TakingITGlobal.

On a more regional front, when I think about the YouthSpark programme in Europe, there are many inspiring examples that come to mind. One of them was in Ireland where Microsoft and the NGO FIT have come together to develop Youth2Work to help tackle Ireland’s youth unemployment problem, with a training and development programme targeted at 18–25 year olds, giving them information, advice and access to ‘in-demand’ skills, work experience and interview and CV development support.

Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, the YouthSpark Programme funded grants at Sofia University, supporting the development and employability of Bulgaria’s youth. This 43,000 Euro grant to FEBA Alumni has been supporting the implementation of “CareerIT”, a program targeting 13,000 students aged 15 to 19 in secondary schools who are among top-results achievers in the external national annual evaluation, and who are from rural and long distance areas.

These are just a couple of the many European initiatives, and many more are currently being developed.

Also, for those young people who are ready to take the next step in their technology education, Microsoft is building and expanding computer science programs in a number of countries. In fact, we will be increasing access to computer science education through expansion of our TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program. In addition, we will be providing an enhanced digital literacy and technology skills curriculum through our YouthSpark Hub.

Needless to say that these initiatives could never have happenned without all the nonprofit organizations, companies, and governments – across the world – empowering young people to enhance their lives and the livelihoods of others. As Lori Harnick, General Manager, Microsoft Citizenship & Public Affairs says: “Working with our nonprofit partners around the world, we see how technology education can be an amazing equalizer of opportunity and employment for youth.”

In partnership with 93 youth-focused nonprofits and through its own programs and products, our activities have had an impact in many ways over the last 12 months. We expanded digital inclusion and access to technology & training for 78.6 million youth; inspired 14.9 million future innovators through tools, mentorships and events; and increased employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for 9.9 million young adults.

These are encouraging results and ones that bring me great pride, but there is more to be done, both from Microsoft and from young people across Europe and the world, to embrace the changes ahead of us and take advantages of the digital opportunities that exist today.