Normal, Microsoft entering digital alliance

Raamel Mitchell
Raamel Mitchell is Microsoft’s Public Affairs and Citizenship Director. (Adam Studzinski/WJBC)

By Adam Studzinski

NORMAL – The Town of Normal on Tuesday announced a digital alliance with Microsoft.

Microsoft Public Affairs and Citizenship Director Raamel Mitchell said the partnership will primarily do three things: aid workforce development, support STEM education, and promote entrepreneurship.

“We need to ensure that we have a robust workforce that understands the skills needed to not just survive, but thrive, in today’s economy,” he said.

Mayor Chris Koos said the local workforce has been challenged in recent years.

“We have people re-entering the workforce and new people coming into the workforce. And the skills that those people need are changing,” said Koos. “Those manufacturing jobs, where somebody’s running a punch press or putting a tire on a car, those jobs are disappearing.

“But there are new jobs that are exciting, but they require skills.”

Part of the partnership means ensuring residents are aware of, and have access to, Microsoft’s digital literacy curriculum.

McLean County Chamber of Commerce CEO Charlie Moore called the partnership “amazing.”

“This new alliance is a brilliant example of how our public and private sectors can work together to move our community forward by providing access to education and the digital literacy required from today’s workforce,” Moore said.

The alliance will last 24 months. Koos explained the deal had been in the works for nearly two years.

Adam Studzinski can be reached at


Labor Day – Expanding voting rights for all

By Mike Matejka Because of COVID, there is no Labor Day Parade this year.  It’s always a great event for our everyday workers to march proudly down the street and enjoys the festive crowd. If there had been a parade, this year’s Labor Day theme was to be “150 years of struggle: your right to vote.” …

Is federal mobilization the answer?

By Mike Matejka As President Donald Trump threatens to send federal marshals into Chicago, over the objections of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, recall another Illinois Governor who protested the incursion of armed federal personnel into the city.   Those federal troops, rather than calming, escalated the situation, leading to deaths and violence. Illinois poet Vachel Lindsay…

In these troubled times, to my fellow white Americans

By Mike Matejka Our nation is at a unique watershed in human relations. African-Americans have been killed too many times in the past before George Floyd, but the response to this man’s death is international and all-encompassing. I was a grade-schooler during the Civil Rights 1960s. I watched Birmingham demonstrators hosed and the Selma – Montgomery…

Workers’ Memorial Day – Remember those whose job took their life

Looking around our community, when we say employer, most will respond to State Farm, Country, or Illinois State University.   We too often forget those who are building our roads, serving our food, or our public employees. COVID-19 has made us more aware of the risk.  Going to work every day for some people means…