YouthSpark Microsoft Empowers Kids

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The future is looking bright. There is so much talent coming up the ranks. Thanks to Microsoft, I've been able to learn a lot about what's happening with our next generation. The company is making sure the talent pool will be deep for generations to come.

All the programs fall under the umbrella of the YouthSpark program at Microsoft. Here's the thing, Microsoft knows that they need talent to keep the company vibrant. Lots and lots of talent. Some years they can't fill all the jobs they need filled because there aren't enough qualified applicants. They want to train the next generation of game changers. And they are starting young.

In 2013 there were 74.5 million young people who were unemployed around the globe. Microsoft has designed programs to help lift these kids out of bad circumstances and train them to think bigger. Here's what's available for youth from 6 years to 25 years.

Take a look:

Last month, I got to meet a bunch of winners from Microsoft's competitions. There was a middle school student who created a braille printer out of LEGO. It's about 1/1000th of the price of a normal braille printer.

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Then there was a young college student from the Middle East who coded a computer program that will custom mix nail polish.

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For those out of school looking to keep developing skills, Microsoft can help too. This young man is using his fresh skills to design graphic tees.

Then I got to fly out to Seattle, and learn more about these programs. The YouthSpark presentation at the Champions Summit blew my mind. Microsoft is putting big bucks into giving free access and tutorials to anyone who wants to learn. Microsoft knows access to computer science education in school is not equal. They've come up with ways to give young people basic coding skills for free. I know not every kid will become a coder or a software developer, but they can become more employable and more marketable.

Critical thinking, problem solving. These skills are essential.

That's what it's all about. Microsoft is putting millions into developing talent. They want to remove the barriers for kids and young adults who want to learn to code.

We learned about TouchDevelop.com. An online resource to teach newbies how to create apps on your phone, tablet or laptop. It works on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac or Linux. Did I mention it's all FREE! These programs are meant to be on ramps to spark interest that will grow.

Once kids get the coding bug, they can head over to Imagine Access--where any student of any age can find the software tools they need to start creating. Coding software from Microsoft Imagine Access is FREE.

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Kids can compete in the Imagine Cup. For 13 years now, this competition has challenged kids to form teams and come up with ideas for a new technology product. They have to collaborate and then build! 35 teams of students from all over the country come to Seattle in July. Winners get $50K and unique access to Microsoft's engineering talent.

If your kids don't know where to start, here's the spot. Students 9-18 can get a free (there's that word again) online tutorial that is entirely self-directed. Head to
www.imaginecup.com/breakintocode it is entirely self-directed, goal-based learning.

There is a slew of LIVE or IRL programs online to get girls/kids into coding too. I signed my girls up for a free intro camp this summer at a local Microsoft store. Starting June 2, Microsoft kicks off the free YouthSpark Summer Camps hosted at Microsoft retail stores across the nation.

Camps include programing designed to teach kids computer science skills in fun and engaging ways including learning how to build, publish and bring mobile games to life, as well as produce and design their own digital movies. Click here for more details http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/locations/kids-events

For more about YouthSpark click here

I am a proud Office Champions and work with Microsoft to produce special sponsored content. Nothing is scripted and this is all my own opinion.

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