Community Skills Initiative wrapped up its month-long UpSkill-A-Thon competition on November 16. FlagshipKansas.Tech collaborated with Microsoft Philanthropies to launch the Community Skills Initiative in Kansas and to help jobseekers, professionals, and students gain new skills for in-demand roles in the digital economy.
FlagshipKansas.Tech was one of nine organizations selected to launch Community Skills Initiative websites and host UpSkill-A-Thons nationally. In total, there were 1400+ UpSkill-A-Thon competitors who earned 4,100+ Career Essentials Certificates and certificates of completion.
The UpSkill-A-Thon is a free, online competition designed to engage community members and help the workforce become more prepared for in-demand roles in the digital economy. The UpSkill-A-Thon competition uses a suite of free online training resources that can be accessed locally through the Community Skills Initiative website.
“FlagshipKansas.Tech’s partnership with Microsoft helped more than 225 Kansans earn credentials, giving them the tools to be more successful in their current roles or as they seek out job opportunities. We will continue to offer these free training resources as a part of our mission to develop a strong Kansas tech workforce,” said Luis Rodriguez, Chair of FlagshipKansas.Tech’s Board of Directors.
Kansas participants came from all backgrounds, such as high school students, a stay-at-home mom preparing to re-enter the workforce, young professionals, and professionals making a career change. Anahi Sanchez, a Newton High School junior and first place winner in the 16–24-year-old category, said she wanted to participate in the competition to improve her career readiness.
“Going on my skilling journey encouraged me to branch out and learn about skills and professions that I would not have previously chosen to learn about,” Sanchez said. “When I chose to try the Software Developer pathway, I had no prior knowledge about programming. However, I was surprised to learn how enjoyable I found learning about it and plan on continuing to do so. I hope to be able to compete in programming events or build my own website in the future.”
Holly Westmoland, an employee of Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas and first place winner in the 25 and older category, said she pushed herself to complete courses and pathways outside her comfort zone, and she is actively using her new skills in her work and personal life.
“At Microsoft we aim for everyone to have access to the skills, technology and opportunity needed to thrive in today’s digital economy,” said Mary Snapp, vice president of strategic initiatives, Microsoft. “We’re proud to support this UpSkill-A-Thon and help people around the country learn new skills – congrats to all participants and the winners of the competition.”
Nationally, participants in the UpSkill-A-Thon competition competed individually or in teams of two to four people, and the top winners in each of the three categories won cash prizes. Team submissions were not received in the Kansas competition and those prizes were reallocated to additional individual awardees.
Kansas UpSkill-A-Thon Competition Categories and Cash Prizes winners include:
16-24 years old
- 1st Place, $2,000: Anahi Sanchez, Newton (172 points)
- 2nd Place, $1,500: Lucy Hoang, Wichita (11 points)
- 3rd Place, $1,000: Jack Carver, Wichita (8 points)
- 4th Place, $500: (Tie) Zarin Mira and Sarah Myose, both of Wichita (2 points)
25 years and older
- 1st Place, $2,000: Holly Westmoland, Wichita (146 points)
- 2nd Place, $1,500: Stephanie Walkup, Wichita (96 points)
- 3rd Place, $1,000: Kay Officer, Wichita (69 points)
- 4th Place, $500: John Grant, Wichita (56 points)
- 5th Place, $250: Jessica Pulec, Stockton (51 points)
Although the UpSkill-A-Thon is over, the skilling opportunities will continue. All courses through the Community Skills Initiative website are free and available in English and Spanish through November 2023. Local employers, teachers, and community organizations are encouraged to share the CSI website as a resource for online training and upskill opportunities. Anyone can tap into the learning pathways and courses, including employers or individuals.