AWS Public Sector Blog

5 tips for skilling the workforce of tomorrow from state and local government experts

Whether you are a local employer, a dean at a higher education institution, or government entity, finding and training your workforce is top of mind. Data from a 2020 McKinsey Global Survey indicated that nine in ten executives and managers say their organizations either face skill gaps already or expect gaps to develop within the next five years. As we continue to find solutions to skill, reskill, or upskill our workforce, the answer will not be found by working in silos but rather through public-private collaboration.

Recently, a number of education and government leaders from across the country participated in a panel with Aaron Osmond, US lead of education to workforce at Amazon Web Services (AWS), to discuss the challenges facing local state leaders and education institutions around workforce. Panelists included: Amanda Crawford, executive director at Texas Department of Information Resources and chief information officer (CIO) for the state of Texas; Jacob Fraire, president and chief executive officer (CEO) at Texas Association of Community Colleges; Greg Dozier, commissioner at Technical College System of Georgia; Chris Bustamante, executive director at Arizona Community College Coordinating Council; and Morgan Reed, executive government advisor at AWS.

Throughout the panel, these five suggestions rose to the top as ways to improve the workforce of tomorrow.

1. Embrace tools and technology

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the amount of technical, digital, and financial resources available to education institutions and government organizations. Utilizing funding from both state and federal government, as well as tools and resources from private sector companies, can help build and sustain training programs. Private sector and public sector can no longer be siloed; they must work together and support one another.

For example, AWS provides AWS Academy courses and instructor professional development at no cost to education institutions. Many other companies and nonprofits are also providing resources to help education institutions as well as government entities to utilize cutting edge technology and tools to help grow the talent pipeline.

Morgan Reed said, “Embrace modern tools and technology to enable your workforce to deliver better outcomes. Work with your technology partners and educational partners to identify and provide training to your employees and continue to developing your people.”

2. Be intentional

Institutions should not be afraid to be intentional and develop programs that align with the local demand of employers. Some of the most in-demand skills might be new to education institutions, or similarly, might be new to a current employee that needs additional training for upskilling.

Being intentional does not just apply to the types of programs you build, but also the students you look to attract to these programs. Jacob Fraire said, “We must be intentional when developing a diverse workforce. It’s critical for educators and employers to sit at the table together and evaluate the data for their region. The data will inform the conversations and highlight where resources need be placed to effectively meet the current labor market demands.”

3. Be nimble

As technology continues to advance and as the world continues to evolve, we need to be nimble and flexible to keep up with the pace of change in industry—in the way we teach and the way people learn.

Greg Dozier said, “Being nimble is not bending—it is being innovative. As innovation comes, we’ve got to be at lightning speed to stay up with it, so we’ve got to be nimble. As we move forward, let’s invest in our people, we always say they are our most valued resource, we just need to show it in a different way in today’s times.”

Flexibility is key to being nimble, Morgan Reed commented, referring to employer flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Now that employees have experienced the freedom to work remotely, and proved they can be as or even more productive then they were in buildings…employers showed flexibility over the last year and will need to continue to be flexible if they want to retain top talent.”

4. Establish partnerships and collaborations

Bringing all key parties to the same table, and to be able to listen and learn from one another, can help build out a solution that works best for everyone involved.

Greg Dozier remarked during the panel on how strong partnerships with secondary education systems is critical: “During the pandemic, we’ve been trying to make sure that we have that strong partnership with our K12 systems and I believe our articulation agreements with K12 to our technical colleges, and our technical colleges to our universities, has really been a key to success — a secret sauce if we want to say that.”

Amanda Crawford spoke about partnerships to build work-based learning solutions with education: “We coordinate a lot with our local community colleges and universities to develop experiential learning projects that partner with faculty to provide real world learning opportunities whether it’s through AI, cybersecurity, data management, or cloud…it’s been great for us.”

5. Look for the answers in your community

Solutions can be found when working together. Although the challenges are often common around the world, the best solutions are found on a local level. Chris Bustamante said, “The answers lie within us, in our communities working with employers, industry…we can together find solutions to the skills gap, if we are communicating, if we are planning, if we are building partnerships that really work for the people that we are trying to help…Our mission is to make sure that people have sustainable jobs with sustainable benefits and a better life for themselves and their kids, and making that connection to these partnerships and the overall mission of community colleges.”

Listen to the panel discussion, and check out AWS workforce tools and resources.

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