Microsoft commits to D.C. training, education programs


Gray, with deputy mayor Paul Quander (Mike DeBonis/The Washington Post)

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) joined a top Microsoft executive in announcing the “Digital Alliance” with the computing giant Wednesday, calling it an “unprecedented strategic partnership” that stands to benefit city residents.

The executive, Vice President of U.S. Government Affairs Fred Humphries, was unable to put a dollar figure on the company’s commitment to the city — the first of its kind for the Redmond, Wash., behemoth, which reported nearly $21 billion in revenue in its last fiscal quarter. But he said the program is a significant commitment that Microsoft hopes to replicate in other U.S. cities.

“I can think of no better place than the nation’s capital to start” the digital alliances, Humphries said. “Quite frankly, it was an easy decision.”

Under one aspect of the program, Microsoft would help the city’s employment services train underskilled job-seekers in general technology literacy and in how to use Microsoft software. The company is also pledging to assist 10 certified local businesses by giving them access to products and services generally reserved for larger companies. (The CEO of one company that stands to benefit, EastBanc Technologies, joined Gray and Humphries for the announcement.) Finally, Microsoft is pledging to support efforts to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or “STEM,” programs in city schools by offering a seminar for teachers this spring at Howard University and holding various “technology-exposure events” for students.

Humphries said the idea is to turn minority and underprivileged students on to STEM careers generally — not necessarily jobs at Microsoft. “There’s nothing like seeing someone like you to say, ‘Hey, you can do this,’ ” he said.

Microsoft employs about 200 in the District, though most of those jobs, he said, were policy, legal and sales jobs related to the federal government. Humphries said the company has not committed to directly hiring city residents who complete the training or education programs.

The agreement announced Wednesday also does not include a commitment from Microsoft to establish an “innovation center” on the east campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital — a redevelopment priority that Gray had recently touted that would mean many more jobs in the city.

But Gray and Humphries both said talks continue on the St. Elizabeths plans. They also said that the deal does not include any requirement that the city buy Microsoft products or do business with the company.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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