The problem is we aren't graduating engineers and scientists even with the demand being high for the trades. I can speak from personal experience that getting a BS in any engineering field requires four years of intense studying and I don't think the younger people today have been training to put up with this requirement from the school system. Our school system here for several years didn't even hand out grades! They thought it promoted competition and this was bad for the students. It is this mentality that pushes students to take the easy route and getting advanced degrees in science and engineering isn't the easy route.
Most people have to be trained for a certain job not matter the requirements. The problem with engineering and science jobs is they require a basic knowledge of advanced physics, chemistry, computer science, math, materials properties etc. that really can't be taught in an OTJ situation. People in these jobs have to hit the ground running with a basic broad knowledge level. Then they receive specialized, targeted training to allow them to perform their job duties. It is very rare that a person can get a job requiring specific knowledge and/or skills and expect 100% OTJ training. It takes too much time and money to train them and then there is no guarantee they will stay with that company so the investment can be recouped. It is safer and less expensive to hire a person that has demonstrated a willingness to be responsible for their own training by them getting an education in a college or trade school.
Microsoft is just reacting like almost every other company has regarding this recession. Their is less demand for their products so they are looking for ways to reduce their expenses. Corporations, small businesses, Mom & Pop shops and even municipal and state governments are doing the very same thing. It will likely get worse before it gets any better. The thing with the computer industry is it has been driven by want and not need. Most people buy a new computer, hardware or software because they want it. Those same people could use their current setup for 2-3 more years if they had no other choice. Now with the economy the way it is, the "needs" of many people are overcoming their "wants."