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College of Technology partners with Microsoft, Houston for Accelerate program

Microsoft and Houston partner with the UH College of Technology to help provide innovation and technological skills to underserved communities. | File Photo/The Cougar

The College of Technology at UH recently announced a partnership with Microsoft and Houston to provide technological and innovation skills to underserved communities in the Houston area.

In June, Microsoft announced their Accelerate program that would help to skill communities that are underserved and to re-skill other Americans affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19.

According to Raamel Mitchell, the Central U.S. Citizenship and Market Development director at Microsoft, Houston was chosen to participate in the program because they share a goal for the city to be a center of innovation, AI and digital skills.

Mitchell said with Houston being the fourth largest city in the U.S. that contains several economic clusters such as energy and medicine, it is at the forefront of a tech revolution. He said for this reason, Houston’s workforce needs to be re-skilled to keep up with the 21st century economy.

Houston’s Digital Equity and Economic Empowerment initiative is one of the goals that Microsoft hopes to assist Houston in achieving.

Mitchell said Microsoft is helping Houstonians, especially those in underserved communities, to have access to technology solutions, opportunities and innovation driven economic growth.

UH was chosen as a partner partially due to its academic reputation. According to Mitchell, the other factor was the programs offered by UH that sought to include communities and the shared belief that teaching skills across the city is crucial to rebuilding the economy.

“It’s all about improving tomorrow by equipping the next generation,” said David Crawley, College of Technology professor of practice. “You’re developing mentors and the mentors are supporting and helping other people bringing ideas, and what occurs from that is that the region becomes a center of opportunity.”

Last fall, Crawley contributed to the introduction of a new minor in the college that emphasized the skills of innovation and how to appeal to companies that are able to provide resources in order to commercialize one’s ideas.

Crawley said when innovation and technological skills are brought into communities, there is “perpetual growth” that is self supported and builds from that foundation and is sustainable.

Technology dean Tony Ambler said when people from underprivileged communities join the workforce and they make more than they could have in menial jobs, it can not only aid the economy but also change the community as a whole.

“We can also find the mechanism to justify for the state to put more resources into those particular school areas which they are not funding as well as they could be already,” said Ambler.

Ambler discussed that in parts of Houston there are people who don’t think of themselves as able to dream of being a part of the workforce and that the goal is not only to get more people interested in aspects of STEM, but to also reach out to underprivileged minorities for the same purpose.

“We got to find ways of exciting them to want to do it but also find a way to give them that future,” Ambler said.

Although COVID-19 has been limiting the capabilities of delivering these skills in person, the development of the program hasn’t slowed down. Mitchell said curated content will be available digitally on a self-paced basis, and that more immersive programs will be offered when it’s safe for participants.

“As we move forward with this program, we hope to see Houstonians – including students, educators, those in the workforce currently, those transitioning and the workers of the future – with the skills to prepare and thrive in their jobs,” Mitchell said.

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