Grandparent on mobile device with grandkids.

Wisper Internet and Microsoft have broadened the companies’ relationship in the Airband initiative to include the latter’s global skills initiaitive, which offers curated learning for subscribers in the wireless ISP’s six state footprint.

Microsoft’s global skills initiative has elements from several companies. It consists of LinkedIn Learning, the GitHub Learning Lab and four elements from Microsoft: Microsoft Learn, reduced cost certifications on Microsoft products, job search assistance (with LinkedIn) and practice interviews and feedback using Microsoft artificial intelligence.

The program is aimed at Wisper ISP subscribers in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The ISP has about 20,000 subscribers.

The rationale behind the Wisper Microsoft initiative is that while broadband is a huge element in bridging the digital divide, a lack of digital literacy and skills has developed in rural areas that also must be addressed. These skills are important in common office jobs and a prerequisite for higher paying jobs.

“With a large pool of applicants fighting for a limited number of competitive, in-demand jobs, rural residents can’t afford to be behind in their digital literacy skill set,” Wisper CEO and founder Nathan Stooke said in a press release. “We are thankful for our collaboration with Microsoft and hope these resources help members of the communities we serve in their job search and career development.”

Microsoft’s Airband Initiative works with private and public entities to deploy broadband and other technologies to improve communities’ education, health care, agriculture and businesses.

Last March, Wisper ISP – one of the two biggest winners in the Connect America Fund (CAF) II auction — joined Airband. At the time, Shelley McKinley, vice president of Microsoft Technology and Corporate Responsibility Group, told Telecompetitor that she expected wireless ISPs to use a number of approaches, including emerging white space technology, to extend broadband.

The goal of Microsoft Airband is to bring broadband to 3 million unserved people in rural areas by the middle of next year. WISPs won $750 million in the auction – or about half of $1.488 billion awarded. The other big winner was Watch Communications.

Updated to correct pronoun for Shelley McKinley

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