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FRUITFUL PARTNERSHIP

South Boston News
From left, Microsoft’s Anthony Putorek (left) presents a $45,000 ceremonial check for the Microsoft Scholars program to SVHEC Executive Director Betty Adams, Katrina Powell, Executive Director of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Foundation, and Foundation Chair Ryan Garrett. (Photos by Drew Morris)
SoVaNow.com / February 28, 2019
Microsoft’s presence in Southside Virginia continues to pay off for Halifax County, next door to the computing giant’s massive data center in Boydton.

On Tuesday, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center celebrated the latest benefit of its partnership with the company: the new Microsoft Scholars program at the SVHEC, funded through a $45,000 grant.

“Microsoft has scored the economic equivalent of a hat trick for southern Virginia,” said Betty Adams, SVHEC Executive Director. “Microsoft brought jobs to the region by locating and growing the Boydton data center, and helped establish the IT Academy where citizens can learn the skills to qualify for these well-paying jobs.

“Now they’re expanding access to training and therefore jobs through the Scholars Program. This is what it means to be a community partner,” Adams said.

Through the Microsoft Scholars program, students in under-represented groups in the tech sector can pursue training at the SVHEC IT Academy. The first group of Microsoft Scholars began classes on Jan. 7 to learn skills such as troubleshooting, hardware repair, and server configuration as they pursue industry certifications in CompTIA A+ and Server+ PC computer servicing.

The students were on hand Tuesday at the SVHEC for a ceremonial presentation of Microsoft’s $45,000 donation to the scholarship fund.

Anthony Putorek, Microsoft senior lead workforce development program manager, told the gathering at the SVHEC that the scholars program is all part of the company’s commitment to foster success in the communities where it does business.

“Microsoft has really gone through a corporate culture change, where the company is really interested in giving back to communities,” said Putorek.

Last year, the Redmond, Wash.-based computing giant made southern Virginia one of the first areas for its TechSpark initiative, which aims to increase educational and economic opportunities in rural and small urban communities. TechSpark Virginia’s leader is Scottsburg resident Jeremy Satterfield, also a board member of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority.

Microsoft also was instrumental in the formation of the SVHEC IT Academy, which produces workers with skills needed for employment at the Boydton cloud computing center. A sixth expansion at the site, representing an estimated investment of more than $1 billion and 100 new jobs, was recently announced by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Although the training in South Boston can lead to jobs in Boydton, Putorek emphasized that trainees in the program can take their education wherever they want.

“The support we provide doesn’t have to be paid back to Microsoft — in other words, students aren’t obligated to take a job at Microsoft. We want to build skills that you can take anywhere and do any kind of work. That’s our contribution back to the community,” he said.

The partnership has produced benefits in both directions, Putorek continued: Microsoft has achieved success with its South Boston training programs that it can replicate elsewhere in the U.S. and internationally where the company has operations.

“In all our large data center communities, what we started here is having an impact all over the globe,” said Putorek.

The first students to sign up for the Microsoft Scholars program said it has given them the freedom to branch out into the tech sector: “The Microsoft scholarship has given me peace of mind. I don’t have to worry about having a student loan or if I’ll have to put it on my credit card,” said Angelica Alves. “The scholarship gave me freedom to really enjoy the class without having anything hanging over my head.”

Added Jennifer Epps: “I worked in the IT field for over 20 years, and I enrolled in the IT Academy to add to my experience and have some certifications under my belt. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the scholarship.”

Information about Southern Virginia Higher Education Center programs is available online at svhec.org or by calling 434-572-5446.



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