REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced the availability of new and expanded technology education and skills training programs for youth as the company marked the first year of progress and impact of its global Microsoft YouthSpark initiative. Building upon the opportunities created for 103 million youth during its first year, Microsoft is increasing access to computer science education through expansion of TEALS — Technology Education And Literacy in Schools — and providing an enhanced digital literacy and technology skills curriculum through its Microsoft YouthSpark Hub. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20000822/MSFTLOGO) "Working with our nonprofit partners around the world, we see how technology education can be a great equalizer of opportunity and employment for youth," said Lori Forte Harnick, general manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs at Microsoft. "Whether it is basic digital literacy or computer science engineering, there is a positive impact for young people of all ages and geographies when they have greater access to technology education. We are enhancing YouthSpark to provide that greater access." According to a new report released today by the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the global youth unemployment rate is expected to reach 12.8 percent by 2018. As the technology sector continues to drive economic growth, youth with ICT skills will find themselves better qualified for new employment and entrepreneurial activities. According to Code.org, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that half of the STEM jobs in the U.S. will be in computing occupations, with more than 150,000 job openings annually, making it one of the fastest-growing fields in the country. In addition, these jobs pay 75 percent more than the national median annual salary and span a breadth of industries, with two-thirds of computing jobs in sectors other than information technology, including manufacturing, defense, heath care, finance and government. Globally, according to the study "Connecting to Work" from The World Bank, in India, for example, jobs in the ICT industry pay up to twice what service-sector jobs pay, whereas in the Philippines an entry-level tech job pays, on average, 38 percent more than minimum wage. "A global approach to youth development is essential for long-term, worldwide economic growth, and providing access to advanced IT skills and education should be a critical element of that approach," said Bill Reese, president and CEO of the International Youth Foundation. "At IYF, we believe we have a responsibility to young people around the world to answer and echo their call for a broad-based, international strategy to address issues that affect their present and future lives and to help them harness their own passion and innovation to build brighter futures." To give youth a head start in gaining critical technology skills that are required for today's jobs, Microsoft launched on Monday a new game-based and interactive digital literacy curriculum for Microsoft Office 2013 on the YouthSpark Hub. Through this online curriculum youth around the world have free access — anytime and anywhere — to learning the basics of word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and databases. The YouthSpark Hub also includes training materials and instructional resources from Microsoft partners, such as Khan Academy and the Sprout e-course from TakingITGlobal. For young people who are ready to take the next step in their technology education, Microsoft is building and expanding computer science education in many countries. In the U.S., Microsoft's TEALS expansion will nearly double the number of high schools where software engineers are voluntarily partnering with in-service faculty to teach basic and Advanced Placement computer science courses. The expansion of the TEALS program now includes 70 schools in 12 states with 280 volunteers that will teach 3,000 students during the 2013–2014 school year. Since the launch of YouthSpark in September 2012, Microsoft has created new education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for 103 million young people around the world. In partnership with 186 youth-serving nonprofits and through its own programs and products, such as Office 365 for Education, Skype in the Classroom, Partners in Learning, Microsoft DreamSpark and DigiGirlz, Microsoft has expanded digital inclusion and access to technology and training for 78.6 million youth; inspired and empowered 14.9 million future innovators through tools, mentorships and events; and increased employability and entrepreneurial skills opportunities for 9.9 million young adults. "As we have worked with young people on their most critical challenges throughout the year, we have been inspired by their leadership and passion to seize these opportunities to enhance not only their own lives, but also the world around them," Harnick said. "For this reason, we see a strong correlation between youth development and global economic growth and believe there is great value in investing in youth as a critical path toward investing in the future."