Microsoft Canada recently announced the launch of its Canada Skills Program in 12 post-secondary institutions this fall in hopes of enhancing data and AI skills and employability for more than 4,500 Canadian students.

Canada Skills Program delivers training, curriculum, and Microsoft Azure credits, enabling students to graduate with the required data analytics, AI, and cloud certifications.

To facilitate the Canada Skills Program at local institutions, Microsoft says it’s training and certifying almost 100 faculty as Microsoft certified trainers at colleges, polytechnics, and universities, as the Canadian economy emerges from the challenges caused by COVID-19. Over the summer, Microsoft has been training faculty from these institutions and getting them certified as Microsoft certified trainers to ensure they’re ready to teach students.

These colleges and universities will combine Microsoft’s curriculum alongside existing coursework to skill students and prepare them to take the aforementioned Microsoft certifications.

“Microsoft’s curriculum will be integrated into our lectures and we’ll be leveraging Microsoft’s Azure portal in our lab sessions to maximize hands-on learning for our students,” David Trinh, program coordinator, cybersecurity and threat management, and professor in the School of Information Technology Administration and Security at Seneca College, told IT World Canada, in an interview.

Azure credits allow students that are participating in this program to learn cloud skills and test on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. It provides opportunities for students to acquire required digital certifications and skills enabling them to graduate with both a Microsoft certification, in addition to their institution’s credentials.

“Microsoft Azure is a paid cloud service with different payment methods available. As a partner with Microsoft Canada, students are provided free credits that can be applied against the cloud service. This will provide students with real-life usage costs helping them be responsible with their spending,” Trinh explained.

The first 12 post-secondary institutions to sign on with the Microsoft Canada Skills Program are:

  • British Columbia: University of British Columbia; Vancouver Community College
  • Alberta: University of Calgary; Northern Alberta Institute of Technology; Red Deer College; Southern Alberta Institute of Technology; Bow Valley College
  • Saskatchewan: SaskPolytechnic
  • Ontario: Seneca College, Humber College; Ontario Tech University; Algonquin College

Microsoft says its curriculum focuses on three critical areas: AI, data, and cloud. The faculty members have been receiving training on certifications including Azure Fundamentals, Azure Data Scientist, Azure Data Engineer, Azure Administrator, Azure AI Engineer, and Azure Solutions Architect. Microsoft has been working with the information tech company Global Knowledge Training to train faculty in this first phase.

“The global economic recovery will be significantly rooted in innovations which require these skills,” said Anthony Salcito, vice-president of worldwide education, Microsoft, in a press release. “As a global technology leader, we have a responsibility to ensure future generations of workers have the tools they need to succeed and to help strengthen our economies overall.”

A recently released research study from Nigel Frank on the value of Microsoft Azure certifications found that survey respondents with zero to three years of experience with cloud certifications earned anywhere from $81K-$133K a year depending on their role. Forty-two per cent of them experienced a salary increase of an average of 23 per cent after becoming Azure certified.