OHA Collaborates With Microsoft to Offer Free IT Certifications

Photo: IT certification cohort with Microsoft and OHA IT staff
Some of the in-person participants of the first IT certification cohort along with IT professionals from Microsoft and OHA, and OHA leadership at the launch event at OHA headquarters in Honolulu. – Photo: Joshua Koh

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and Microsoft are teaming up to offer free Microsoft certification to OHA beneficiaries in an effort to bring them into Hawaiʻi’s Information Technology (IT) industry.

On Oct. 31, OHA held its first-ever Tech Career Day. Thirty-five participants attended, either virtually or in person, to learn about tech career opportunities, and to hear from prominent figures in Hawaiʻi’s private IT sector, from local government IT officials, as well as from a Microsoft representative.

The overall message? The tech industry in Hawaiʻi is hiring and Native Hawaiians – who may not have previously considered pursuing a career in tech – can take advantage of this training for free.

“Today’s Tech Career Day is just the beginning of this relationship,” says OHA Communications Director Alice Silbanuz. “When we put out the kāhea to let people know that we were going to be hosting a cohort for folks interested in pursuing IT certifications we got a great response from people who were ready for a career change, young people ready to pursue careers in IT, and those wanting to explore an IT career path and take advantage of the no-cost certifications.”

When he started working with the Hawaiʻi team, Microsoft Account Technology Strategist Ben LaBelle noted the lack of Microsoft IT technicians in Hawaiʻi. “It was pretty obvious that we didn’t have the resources to get projects moving. So where’s a place we can really target, potentially make an impact, and make people’s lives better?”

“Microsoft has the initiative to conduct trainings,” said OHA IT Director Tiger Hu Li. “That’s a great opportunity and meets an immediate need so I said, ʻHey, let’s do it!’ There are so many career paths you can pursue – data scientist, programmer, information security officer – if you have employable IT skills.”

The trainings align to OHA’s strategic directions of economic stability and educational pathways. The goal is to have more Native Hawaiians earn certifications in IT.

Teri-Lin Kim Seu was part of the first cohort of 35 students. “I’ve been looking at how to definitely put a mark on my resume. I do have some tech background and I want to boost it, so having this opportunity to take some of these courses for free is an opportunity you don’t often come by.”

World Wide Technology Regional Director Fred Watson shared that his career in IT lifted him out of less fortunate means.

“I was born in difficult circumstances – a single mother without a high school diploma. We lived in public housing. Life was a struggle. Then I got akamai and discovered I had a passion for computers. Because I had that passion, everything opened up for me. College was a joy. I graduated with honors, had a ton of job opportunities, and got into a great global computer company. That began my journey.”

“This is an excellent role for OHA – to act as a facilitator that helps to foster these relationships, advance careers and, ultimately, advance economic stability for the students and their ʻohana,” Silbanuz said.

Follow OHA on social media or sign-up for e-blasts at www.oha.org/connect to receive updates on future free Microsoft training.