Business and education share demand for Microsoft IT Academy

Pekin Community High School students earn certification through the Microsoft IT Academy
Kennedy Coleman (left) and Maci Gambell (right) of Pekin Community High School have earned all four certifications offered through the Microsoft IT Academy in just one year.

Both businesses and educators agree that developing skills with the Microsoft Office suite will lead to success in the future offices of Iowa businesses. That notion is why Microsoft IT Academy operates at capacity serving a mixture of 150 school districts and community colleges, certifying hundreds of students as well as some teachers throughout the state in Microsoft Office programs. A waiting list testifies to demand for the program.

Tim Magill, business teacher at Pekin Community High School in Packwood, recognized this demand early on and applied to bring Microsoft IT Academy to the school in the fall.

Magill said he replaced a previous class on computer applications with the Microsoft IT Academy and offers two semesters of the coursework—one for Microsoft Word and the other for Microsoft Excel—for all grade levels.

Only one course is required for graduation, yet Magill said most of his students recognize the importance of the certifications and take both semesters. Magill credits that belief to his class roster of 29 students this past fall semester and 43 students this spring semester. In just one year, Magill has helped students achieve a total of 88 certifications in a school of roughly 200 students.

His previous experience working with a computer software company revealed the businesses’ demand for this skillset. Now, however, Magill is also seeing some colleges requiring these certifications for certain majors before college graduates earn their degrees.

“These skills are recognized internationally—all the way around the world—so that, when you say, ‘Hey, I’m certified in Word,’ you’re one step ahead of every other applicant. I don’t care what job you’re applying for,” Magill said.

Fortunately, Microsoft IT Academy brings the STEM pedagogy to the forefront and allows Magill to teach the class non-traditionally, letting the students explore and learn the programs at their own pace. It has allowed Maci Gambell, freshman at Pekin Community High School, to earn all four certifications in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook in only her first year.

“This is going to benefit me immensely later on in my schooling and career,” Gambell said. “With so many advances in technology in recent years, and so many more advances to come, most places are switching to higher technology, and more than not, throughout your life, you are going to have to work with technology and Microsoft's programs.”

To see the benefits in your school, submit an application of interest to be included on the waiting list at www.iowastem.gov/mita.