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A digital alliance between Microsoft and the state of Arkansas will bring technology-based educational and economic initiatives to the state. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Fred Humphries, corporate vice president of U.S. Government Affairs for Microsoft, announced the alliance via a signing earlier today.

In a press conference held in the Governor’s conference room in the state capital, Little Rock, Hutchinson and Humphries outlined how the alliance will deliver initiatives for economic development and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The initiatives are designed to impact the state’s transitioning workforce, technology entrepreneurs, and youth pursuing computer science and other STEM careers.

In addition to building deeper and more strategic relationships with senior leaders across the state, the agreement also enables Microsoft to partner with the state of Arkansas, as well as with key customers, partners and nongovernmental organizations to implement digital literacy training, TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), BizSpark and YouthSpark programs across the state.

“Technology influences almost everything we do today, from recreation to education to professional development. This partnership with Microsoft will continue to empower Arkansans with digital skills essential to almost every facet of life in the 21st century. I am delighted that this Digital Alliance will provide Arkansans with additional opportunity to gain experience with coding and computation, which only helps to further my initiatives to support STEM education and economic development in the state.” – Governor Asa Hutchinson

Randall Lee, Photographer; Office of the Governor, Arkansas State Capitol
Photograph by Randall Lee, Office of the Governor, Arkansas State Capitol 

Most jobs today require at least a basic level of technology and computer skills, and some of the most in-demand, higher-paying careers require advanced computing skills, curriculum that is still largely absent in schools.

“Microsoft is committed to supporting the workforce of today — and growing the workforce of the future — by ensuring that all students, regardless of economic background, have the opportunity to learn computer science and computational thinking. These skills are needed in every industry,” Humphries said. “This digital alliance builds on Arkansas’s commitment to increase access to computer science education and help close the skills gap. I thank Governor Hutchinson for his continued leadership in K-12 computer science education and for embarking on this new partnership with Microsoft.”

The initiatives enabled by this digital alliance between Microsoft and Arkansas provide both information and inspiration, giving people opportunities to build their computer skills, collaborate with other students, and learn how to think critically and creatively as they explore technology and how it can shape their plans for the future.

The initiatives are organized and supported by Microsoft technology experts and partners to promote youth education and adult professional development. Some of these initiatives in Arkansas will include:

  • DigiCamps give high school students opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with STEM industry professionals (including Microsoft employees), and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. The camps give between 50 and 100 young people per session a chance to experience firsthand what it’s like to develop cutting-edge technology. The DigiGirlz High Tech Camp works to encourage STEM awareness and interest among girls and to dispel stereotypes of the high-tech industry. During the camp session, the girls listen to executive speakers, participate in technology tours and demonstrations, network, and learn through hands-on workshops.
  • YouthSpark Live will bring together 1,000 young people grades 7 to 12 from across the state and support them in planning their futures. The event will focus on three key areas for student development: employment, careers and entrepreneurship. Participants will identify the skills they need to reach their goals, figure out how technology will propel them forward and connect to programs that will help them get there.
  • TEALS will help Arkansas high schools build sustainable computer science programs by pairing trained computer science professionals with classroom teachers to team-teach computer science in the classroom.
  • Microsoft BizSpark training will be offered for up to 200 entrepreneurs across the state. This global program from Microsoft provides free software, support and visibility to help startups succeed.
  • Microsoft Community Connections will educate and empower small, local businesses by connecting them with Microsoft partners to help them learn how current technology solutions can help them operate more efficiently and grow their businesses.

The Arkansas digital alliance is one of many such alliances across the country and is part of Microsoft’s ongoing global CityNext initiative, which assists cities and state governments in unlocking their potential through digital solutions that help citizens receive high-quality education and lead safer, healthier lives.

Closing the skills gap is an important focus area for Microsoft, who is working with government and community leaders to make computer science education more accessible and inclusive for youth, entrepreneurs and business around the world. For more on education and smart city solutions visit CityNext online.