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We are living in an age of digital transformation. We see it on the streets, at work, and in our homes almost every day. This cultural shift to embed technology into the fabric of our lives is rapidly changing the way we do business. IDC recently reported that investment in digital transformation initiatives will reach $2.2 trillion by 2019 – that’s almost 60% more than this year.

Today 80% of our customers have already deployed or fully embraced the cloud – by 2020 the idea that a company has “no cloud” would be as rare as a “no internet” policy is today. That momentum is real and will continue to rise, and the technical competency of your business will be a critical component to success. To meet the changing needs of your customers, your business needs to be comfortable in adapting to new technologies to be competitive in the future.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce the launch of new, free Azure training courses available in a self-paced, interactive online learning environment, as well as new opportunities for Azure certification at a deep discount. Six courses are available today, and we’re adding 6 more in the next few weeks – with more coming over the next few months!

These courses are designed to help partners respond to the surging demand, realize positive returns, and grow their market opportunity. Technology professionals can start with our Azure Fundamentals or those wishing to become multi-cloud specialists can check out our Azure for AWS Experts courses, or dive right in to more specific courses like Azure Storage or Azure Networks. It’s also a great way to strengthen customer dialogue about what cloud technology can do for their business.

Bridging the Skills Gap

There is a growing need of IT professionals with the right technical skills to capitalize on the cloud opportunity. In fact, that skills gap is the most commonly cited barrier to digitization among CIOs. While the technical talent gap is real and many of you have shared your challenge with filling this gap, it’s something we can overcome by increasing investment in training our existing work force and supporting the next generation of computer science professionals.

To help ensure our partners can tap into a skilled and well-equipped workforce, Microsoft is investing in a variety of technical training, tools and resources, including the Microsoft Virtual Academy, the Cloud + Enterprise University Boot Camps, and the Microsoft Professional Program, just to name a few.

These new Azure offers join the lineup today, featuring a modern learning model called a Massively Open Online Course, or MOOC. MOOCs are so much more than online videos and demos – they incorporate videos, labs, graded assessments, office hours, and more.

You can access our growing catalog of MOOCs right now, for free. Finishing each MOOC includes a digital certificate of completion ready to share on professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

And this is not only for you, but for your customers as well! Use this as a resource in your toolkit to help your customers learn and explore Azure to uncover opportunities.

An Offer Too Good to Pass Up

Completing a MOOC is one way to learn and demonstrate vital cloud skills, but it isn’t the only one. Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exams remain a respected and recognized designation of cloud capability, and these offers can help you use MCP certification to differentiate your business.

If you want to prove your skills in a single area, you can purchase a single exam, retake, and practice test for $99. If you want to prove your broad cloud mastery, you can purchase three exams, retakes, and practice tests for $279. This is a major discount from market value, and in January we’ll be partnering with the Linux Foundation to offer an optional add-on discount toward Linux certification.

Azure Skills Chart

These training and certification options are designed to suit unique individual or team needs to increase your team’s productivity, satisfaction, and efficiency in the areas you need to focus on most. They are all available to your customers as well.

How Azure Skills Will Support Your Business Growth

Adding Azure skills to your company’s toolbox can help you be more nimble and successful in a digital economy, especially when it comes to meeting customer needs on any cloud platform. It’s clear that the businesses who do invest are seeing huge returns.

According to IDC, certification allows hiring managers to fill positions 25 percent more quickly. What’s more, certified new hires are fully productive an entire month sooner than their uncertified peers. And compared to their peers, Microsoft certified developers are 90% percent more productive and nearly 60% percent more efficient. This means that they make nearly twice as many applications per year and in half the time per application.

“Being an MCP has changed my life in ways that make me excited about Microsoft, about the products, about wanting to learn new things all the time. It opens doors for me that I never would have had, had it not been for the MCP program. The MCP community is one of the most important things that I treasure.”

– Sondra Nelson, Microsoft Certified Professional and Trainer

These offers are a high-value, simple, and customizable way to increase the technical skills of your team and earn valuable Microsoft Certified Professional designations to set your business apart.

At Microsoft, we are committed to helping our partners to grow their business and maximize their potential. To help enable our partners to capitalize on the next generation of business, we must train and enable the people needed to meet the needs of our customers into the future.

How have you been getting your team the training they need to stay competitive? Share your thoughts with the MPN community in the comments below.

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