Few companies have invested more in training programs for their credentials in recent years than Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The Amazon subsidiary is the world’s leading
cloud computing platform and an increasingly important part of the internet’s infrastructure, as millions learned during its recent outages
. Just over a year ago, AWS announced plans
to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to offer free technical skills training in cloud computing to 29M people globally.
The company’s big spending on free training is driven by an enormous and growing cloud IT skills gap
, says Kevin Kelly
, director of AWS Education Programs.
“We can’t afford not to,” Kelly says. “This is investing in our customers and our future customers.”
As university leaders await Amazon’s choice about which institutions it will tap as partners for a new free tuition benefit
aimed at its 750K front-line workers, AWS says it’s essential to work both within and outside traditional higher ed.
Beyond 29M: AWS Academy
offers a free curriculum and educator training to accredited colleges so their students can prepare for certifications. Many institutions around the world have signed up—incorporating cloud computing into new and existing courses and credentials—including hundreds of community colleges
and four-year universities
in the U.S. Students at those colleges get a 50 percent discount on AWS certification exams.
The company says
AWS Academy graduates have been hired by a wide range of companies with cloud needs, including Accenture, Goldman Sachs, and Verizon Wireless. And while AWS courses from its member colleges tend to not be credit bearing, some institutions are offering credit for an AWS certification, such as LSU Online
, or for AWS Academy courses, including UC San Diego Extension
Some institutions will allow students to stack the certifications toward degrees. Meanwhile, Indiana
have made broad commitments to use AWS Academy content across statewide two-year systems.
Kelly wrote this
about the company’s expanding partnerships with higher ed:
“We are building a global talent supply chain and fostering innovative and scalable collaboration between industry and academia. To be effective, this model requires that both sides commit to understanding each other’s unique pressures and strengths. It requires they prioritize career outcomes and job placements.”
Two-Way Street: Shalin Jyotishi
, senior policy analyst for the Center on Education & Labor at New America, sees an opportunity for AWS and Amazon to work with colleges to create stackable pathways for workers who aren’t currently enrolled in college.
“One challenge I’ve observed in the market of employer-issue credentials and training is that other employers in the industry may not recognize it,” he said. “If a worker can leverage in-house training from Amazon to progress in their careers at Amazon, that’s great, but what if they have to or want to move to another opportunity?”
Colleges and universities, Jyotishi said, could build out their prior learning assessment infrastructure to help workers get credit for credentials from AWS and other employers.
Mentorship and Hiring of Graduates:
Miami Dade College has a close partnership
with AWS, says Antonio Delgado
, vice president of innovation and technology partnerships at the primarily two-year institution. So far, 10 Miami Dade faculty members and 200 students have earned AWS certifications. And he says the faculty training and curriculum provided by the AWS Academy
have been a “great differentiator,” as has the 50 percent certification exam discount.
“More importantly, AWS is providing mentorship, résumé preparation training, AWS partners’ engagement activities, real scenarios for capstone projects, and direct recruitment opportunities for MDC students,” Delgado says, “which have led to job placement at AWS or AWS partners for many graduates of the cloud programs at MDC.”
Noncollege Training: Year Up
is an established and fast-growing nonprofit job training group
, which has provided six months of tuition-free technical skills training to 36K lower-income young adults without college degrees, who move into paid internships for the second half of the program.
“Year Up really focuses on teaching skills that are relevant in a quick time frame,” says Emily Schaffer
, managing director of technology for the organization.
The group has partnered with AWS through its re/Start program, which is free and offered full-time and in person over 12 weeks.
The training features scenario-based exercises in Linux, Python, networking, security, and databases. It’s designed to prepare individuals with little or no technology experience for entry-level cloud computing careers.
AWS recently tripled
the number of locations where re/Start is available—to 95 cities in 38 countries, ranging from India to five locations across Indiana. Kelly says AWS often works with nonprofit groups like Year Up to help launch its re/Start programs.
Year Up participants in San Francisco receive AWS training through re/Start in cohorts of 16 to 29 students. While the program is still relatively new, more than 70 percent of participants who graduated in July 2021 have gotten jobs, with average starting salaries of more than $70K. Year Up plans to expand its re/Start locations, with D.C. as a possibility.
The group also collaborates with Amazon itself, having placed more than 200 of its participants with the AWS parent company since 2016. Amazon hired 150 of those interns for permanent roles.
Students who go through Year Up’s program can earn college credits, including by being dually enrolled at the group’s 15 or so community college partners
. But Schaffer says Year Up is agnostic about whether students pursue college credits or just stick with tech certifications.
“It really depends on the goals of the student,” she says. “They need the great-paying job first before they can continue with their higher education.”
Job placement also is the goal of AWS with its training programs, says Kelly.
The Kicker: “We’re keeping an eye on the prize, which is employment,” he says. “We don’t want to train just to train.”