Microsoft’s TechSparks Program is Gaining Ground in Wyoming
Friday, February 23, 2018
Microsoft is investing in Wyoming through the establishment of their TechSparks Program. This creates an incredible opportunity for growth and expansion within the technology and IT sectors. To learn more about the program and why they chose Wyoming, we interviewed Dennis Ellis, Microsoft’s TechSpark Manager for Wyoming.
WEDA: Why is Microsoft interested in Wyoming?
DE: Microsoft chose Wyoming because of the rural nature of the Laramie County area as well as the location of a datacenter in the area. The hope is that we develop interesting projects that can be scaled up in other areas like Cheyenne and around the country. Other rural communities chosen to participate in the program include Fargo, North Dakota; Quincy, WA; Appleton, WI; El Paso, TX and Boydton, VA.
WEDA: What activities are happening as a result of the initiative?
DE: Because the program is in its infancy, we are on the front end of talking to the community about their needs and efforts to diversify the economy in the technology space. Areas of focus for Microsoft include: Digital Transformation Initiatives, Digital Skills and Computer Science Education, Career Pathways, Rural Broadband Deployment and Support for Nonprofits. One specific program we are trying to deploy is TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) that can help to bring computer science education to more high schools in this region. TEALS is an industry wide effort that brings computer science engineers from Microsoft and other companies together with classroom teachers and team-teach computer science. Another example is a newer certification program we have partnered with LCCC on to provide curriculum and materials for future datacenter employee needs.
WEDA: What community organizations are involved with TechSparks?
DE: We are currently beginning this conversation with dozens of organizations in Laramie County, with Laramie County Community College (LCCC) and at the University of Wyoming. There are many good efforts occurring at the local level in the technology space that we would like to be a part of and help grow.
WEDA: What are your goals for the initiative?
DE: The goal of this program is to build a civic engagement program aimed at fostering greater economic opportunity and job creation through partnership with rural communities like Laramie County. We hope to learn about local challenges and to implement and learn from digital initiatives to help accelerate growth, with a plan to share those learnings more broadly.
WEDA: How can the community support you/the initiative?
DE: Our hope is that TechSpark will help add to the ways that communities and businesses can work together to address critical economic challenges. We believe this model of a deep, long-term community partnership can help communities address their unique needs and create a future-ready workforce and be a catalyst for economic investment and opportunity for all Americans, even those in rural America.
WEDA appreciated the opportunity to speak with Dennis about the TechSparks initiative and look forward to observing their progress. Anyone who would like to learn more about TechSparks can contact Dennis Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org.