Microsoft Datacenter Academy Partners with Community Colleges ... and Communities
In trolling Google News this morning, I learned that two community colleges in Arizona are joining the swelling ranks of a "special focus" arm of Microsoft Academy. It seems that Estrella Mountain Community College and Glendale Community College will each partner with Microsoft to build and offer a Microsoft Datacenter Academy program.
The program will be available to the various communities that each institution serves in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Each such datacenter revolves around a lab, consisting of three or more rack-mount cabinets that accommodate a mix of servers, storage devices, and networking gear.
The impetus that drives Microsoft to donate the equipment to create such labs is the same impetus that drives community colleges. Those who join the Datacenter Academy (DCA) program commit to offer intensely-focused, fast track programs. Their students must also work through the curriculum outlined in Microsoft's DCA Curriculum Guide (PDF document).
This is entirely in keeping with the mission of community colleges to provide workers to local employers, industries, and residents. In this case, as Dr. Teresa Leyba Ruiz, President of Glendale Community College, put it to Arizona Education News, the goal is "to educate, train, and prepare our students for ... careers in the growing IT industry."
Microsoft's Role in the DCA Program
So far, Microsoft has signed up two other partner schools, both in Virginia as well: Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston, and Southside Virginia Community College in Alberta. For each institution, Microsoft has made sure it can equip a complete lab with the right mix of servers, networking and storage components to let students learn hands-on.
While pursuing that learning, students also tackle a demanding slate of classes. Elements of the curriculum include earning the CompTIA A+, Server+, Network+ and Security+ certifications, along with a variety of electives on IT fundamentals and processes, productivity tools, networking, and more.
According to the Microsoft Datacenter Community Development web page, this effort extends to nonprofits and community-led projects of all kinds. Of course, community colleges are a natural fit for this kind of program. But Microsoft Datacenter Community efforts also embrace such outreach programs as the Youth Emergency Shelter Services (YESS) program in Des Moines, Iowa, and include a community empowerment component as well.
Workforce development efforts — like those undertaken with the community colleges already mentioned — also involve local industries, public sector organizations, NGOs, and other community-led organizations to make sure that they provide benefits to stakeholders across entire regions and the communities that occupy them.
Microsoft even goes so far as to support a rural broadband strategy to help bring the benefits of reliable, affordable high-speed broadband to what it calls "datacenter communities."
Fascinating, Holistic Outreach
It's not often one gets to contemplate high-tech initiatives that take a broad and full-spectrum approach to developing local communities to allow them to participate in the 21st-c entury digital economy. This is not just about training prospective employees to work in datacenters, or promoting IT certification and career development.
Sure, those things play a role in this vision. But it's also about developing community infrastructures — including internet access, the local power grid, and even ensuring plentiful supplies of clean water — to provide the kind of community environment where datacenter operations can thrive and serve as a long-term nexus for ongoing growth and sustainable workforce development.
This is the kind of thing that makes good sense not just for the rural American heartland, but also for underdeveloped and underserved areas all over the world. Suddenly the interesting technology news bites about Microsoft's self-contained underseas datacenters make more sense.
Those resources could obviously plug into community datacenter development projects aimed at creating ongoing, sustainable employment opportunities for seaboard communities around the globe. The terrestrial equivalent seems to make a great proposition for rural and agrarian communities as well. I hope to see this program explode in terms of number of locations and participants.