Despite large budget cuts, Washington state's Employment Security Department has extended its contract with Microsoft to make the company's entire suite of online courses available for free to Washington residents for another year.
The contract originally was scheduled to end this past Monday, Oct. 31, but now will be continued through October 2012.
Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause said the extension reflects his decision to make cost-effective customer services a priority as tough budget choices are made.
"This has been one of the most cost-effective investments we've ever made in skill training," Trause said.
In the past year, 12,195 Washington residents have taken more than 29,000 Microsoft courses, averaging out to less than $12 for each course completed.
"Microsoft e-learning has something for nearly everyone, whether you need just a little refresher or you're starting from scratch," Trause added. "It's hard to find another training package that is so widely suitable."
The available courses cover basic computer literacy, the full array of Office and Windows products, and training for IT professionals.
Any working-age resident of Washington state is eligible for the free training, whether employed or unemployed.
Upon request, access codes are sent by email through local WorkSource employment centers.
To learn more and to register online, log in to Go2WorkSource.com and click on the "Wow! Free Microsoft E-learning" icon on the right. Information and registration assistance also are available at local WorkSource centers, which are listed on the Go2WorkSource.com website.
Under the terms of the contract with Microsoft, e-learning access codes will be distributed through Oct. 31, 2012, and must be activated no later than that date. From the point a code is activated, the user has 12 months to complete the online coursework. For example, an access code activated on Oct. 20, 2011, is good until Oct. 19, 2012.