I often give Microsoft a hard time on this blog. Not so this time. I want to give their program, "Elevate America" a mention.

Elevate America is Microsoft's way of helping American workers get a leg up and perhaps get off the unemployment line in the midst of this tough economy.

Here's what the program has to offer:

- Microsoft is offering free or low cost tech training and even certification opportunities for up to two million people over the next three years, some of it is directly available through Microsoft. Other offerings are in partnership with a number of states that have already signed on to the program. Those states include, so far, Washington, New York, Florida, Virginia.

- It offers basic technology skills training that covers how to put together a resume and send it out electronically to fundamental web site design.

- There are vouchers for tuition to certification course work and even the exams.

- It also includes special training for college students and grads, along with job placement assistance.

Yes, one could interpret all of this as a bit self-serving; a way to further expand the Microsoft IT army giving businesses more reason to stick with Windows, etc.and avoid open source solutions. Take a step back on this one, however. Microsoft is a business, after all. Their job is making money. Businesses don't do anything without getting something out of it in return, even if it's just a play for some good public relations.

I don't have a problem with that and this time Microsoft has earned some good PR.

Job training assistance in an economy where the unemployment rate is dancing around the double digit barrier is a site for sore eyes. This is not retraining for menial, low paying jobs. These skills are for good- salaried white collar professions. The skills are highly mobile, too.

At a time when so many Americans are out of work and yet there is a need to import workers from out of the country to fill good high tech positions; this is a great program to offer.

I hope other states will join the effort.

I hope businesses will join the effort. Perhaps instead of outsourcing work to other countries, some will instead consider pointing job candidates to this program and then hiring these new entry-level workers instead.