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Thousands of students in the state of North Carolina are set to get a skoolin' in Microsoft technologies thanks to a state-wide deal with the software giant.

Microsoft said Tuesday that North Carolina has become the first US state to implement Redmond's Microsoft IT Academy Program for its public high schools — 628 in total.

The program offers students and teachers the latest Microsoft software for classrooms and labs, Microsoft e-learning materials, discounts on courseware, access to Tech Net, and marketing resources to help promote the institutions' association with Microsoft, along with certification in Microsoft technologies.

North Carolina is scheduled to start testing the program at a selected number of schools, but Microsoft said the state expects that all 628 institutions will participate in time for the next school year.

According to Microsoft, its program "provides students with real-world technology skills they need to be successful in college and their careers."

North Carolina's superintendent of public instruction June Atkinson said in a statement:

The ability to effectively use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access is an essential skill in most businesses and offices today. I am pleased that North Carolina can provide this opportunity for teachers to improve their skills and for students to be career-ready.

Microsoft executives Siegfried Behrens, general manager for US education, was even more bullish. "Microsoft certifications are widely recognized by employers and can give students an edge in today's competitive job market," he said in a statement.

Yes, give us the boy and we'll give you the man. ®

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