eLearning Microsoft is offering free, online help to Iowans who want to improve their computer skills. The service is available to the first 5700 Iowans who sign up for it either by calling the state agency known as Iowa Workforce Development or going on the agency’s website .

Iowa Workforce Development director Elizabeth Buck describes improving your computer skills as "up-skilling."

"We encourage any Iowan who is unemployed to really pause at this time in their life as they’re going through transitions and consider the upskilling," Buck says. "Right now, in this competitive market, if you don’t have the right skill set, you will really be struggling to connecting to work."

Tony Wilson, Microsoft’s director of government affairs in the Midwest, says Iowa is the fourth state in the country to offer this free, on-line computer training to its residents.

"Today’s technology-driven workplace requires basic proficiencies with computers, business productivity software and digital communications tools," Wilson says. "At the same time, the rapidly changing economic conditions are creating new jobs that will require additional skills and advanced technology."

Microsoft calls their program "Elevate America." Iowans can now obtain a voucher so they can sign up for Microsoft "e-Learning" courses.

"It’s very important because the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that within five years, three-fourths of all jobs will require some sort of technology skills," Wilson says.

Those who participate in the program can take a "Microsoft Certification Exam" for a reduced cost and labor experts say the certification is a good resume booster.

Learn more about the program by clicking on the audio link below and listening to the news conference about this initiative.  Governor Culver also answered questions about Microsoft’s data center in West Des Moines, wind energy and other issues.

The toll-free phone number for Iowa Workforce Development is 1-800-JOB-IOWA.

AUDIO: news conference…MP3 23 min.