WSU Extension is partnering with a Wenatchee-based technology outreach organization to give rural job seekers and professionals new skills thanks to a grant from Microsoft Philanthropies.

This grant and subsequent partnership will expand the Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Alliance’s UpSkill Program, which brings free online trainings and resources to job seekers and professionals. The program will expand beyond its initial focus on Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Grant and Okanogan counties to bring access to these skills trainings to individuals across the state.

Hundreds of free online trainings and low-cost certifications are available to assist workers looking to develop digital skills as well as soft skills like communication and collaboration.

The partnership comes at a vital time, as workers across the country navigate the instability brought by COVID-19. Developing these new skills now also puts workers in a better position for the ever-advancing digital economy.

Microsoft, LinkedIn and Github are also lending their resources and expertise to the partnership to better understand where skill gaps exist and work to fill them with resources and training. The partnership is funded as part of a $20 million effort by Microsoft Philanthropies to reach more than 22 million people internationally who are negatively impacted by the digital divide.

“Partnering with GWATA, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and GitHub is strong recognition that skills training and the workforce are evolving and progressing,” Trevor Lane, an associate professor and state specialist with WSU Extension, said. “Improving and expanding digital skills will be critical to education and employment credentials.  Some reports estimate that more than 40% of today’s jobs will not exist five to 10 years from now.”

Employers in the targeted counties are also getting in on the action by sharing information on the UpSkill website with their employees. WSU Extension and GWATA are further building relationships with libraries, economic development centers and schools across the region to expand UpSkill’s usage. Organizers are hoping to see more than 50,000 people access the skills portal. More opportunities for people on tribal lands and in rural areas to engage will open up alongside existing efforts to improve broadband access in these locations.