The Microsoft Authorised Resource Centre programme will let accredited recruitment agencies offer IT contractors up to 40 per cent discounts on training for the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) qualification. The qualification is given based on a detailed knowledge of at least one Microsoft operating system.
The focus will be on out of hours training, home study and 'fast track' courses so that contractors don't have to miss out on paid working hours. Microsoft also hopes some contractors will progress to its Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) qualification which demands the ability to implement and support systems under Windows, NT Server and BackOffice; and the Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) programme for those able to demonstrate an ability to develop solutions with Microsoft tools and operating systems.
However, Microsoft insisted that the project is not about boosting the skills base in its own products, particularly NT Server. "It's not just about raising the NT Server skills level although that's an important part," said Debbie Walsh, IT skills development manager at Microsoft.
"We want to get another 5,000 MCPs in the next year. There is a broad lack of skills, particularly in NT Server, that's approaching crisis point and making things like staff poaching an issue. The problem is broader than Microsoft ... we're just helping the supply chain."
Walsh added that the number of people qualified in NT Server in the UK doubled in the last 12 months.
"Britain is currently under the spotlight to address the IT skills crisis facing businesses," said David Svendsen, Microsoft UK managing director. "Microsoft Ltd. is committed to working with industry to help close the current gap and ... work towards increasing the number of individuals working in IT. We are hoping that this will encourage the rest of the industry to take action and work with us to address this problem."