New York announced Friday, March 26, its participation in a nationwide program from Microsoft that gives job seekers and citizens free access to technology skills training, digital literacy education and vouchers for certification exams.

New York is the 14th state to join Microsoft's Elevate America program.

The New York State Department of Labor will distribute a total of 71,000 vouchers to the state's citizens for online training and certification through career centers across the state, Gov. David A. Paterson announced. The state's One-Stop Career Centers will distribute 31,500 vouchers for Microsoft Windows and Office online training, 31,500 vouchers for Microsoft Business Certification Exams, and 8,000 vouchers for technical professional-level online training.

State CIO Melodie Mayberry-Stewart said in a statement that technology training is "desperately needed" for the state's work force. "Many New Yorkers should take advantage of this innovative program, and this unique public-private partnership," she said.

Elevate America was founded in February 2009, and has since distributed 475,000 vouchers for technology training. The initiative's goal is to train 2 million people during the next few years, to as a means to improve U.S. workers' technical literacy and the nation's global competitiveness.

"The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that in five years, more than three-fourths of all jobs in the U.S. will require at least a basic level of technology skills. But achieving this requires private-public collaboration, so we've partnered with governments, schools, community organizations and local companies to maximize our effectiveness and tailor the programs to local needs,"" Gail Thomas-Flynn, vice president of U.S. state and local government for Microsoft, told Government Technology last year.

Two weeks ago, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his state's participation in Elevate America. Approximately 165,000 vouchers will be distributed across California.