How Miami Dade College is preparing students for in-demand cloud roles
With AWS courses and learning resources, Miami Dade College is preparing students for success, including three recent graduates who were hired at Florida Power and Light Company.
“What will help our students find high-quality, high-paying jobs?”
That’s the question driving the leadership at Miami Dade College (MDC)—and it’s the question that brought them to AWS. Year after year on LinkedIn, they saw cloud computing rank among the top skills companies needed most, and they heard companies across the state were actively seeking cloud talent.
“That’s why we created a program to help students get the skills needed for those jobs,” explained Antonio Delgado, MDC’s Dean of Engineering, Technology, and Design. To equip their students with the cloud computing skills companies are looking for, MDC turned to AWS for guidance and resources. They joined AWS Academy, a program that provides higher education institutions with a free, ready-to-teach cloud curriculum. “It was great to see that AWS, the leading company in cloud computing, already had a pathway to help institutions like us.”
Connecting academia and industry
MDC serves one of the largest undergraduate populations in the country and reports that 91% of students identify as minorities, 57% are women, and over half come from low-income households. To the institution’s leadership, cloud computing education is key to providing their students professional and economic opportunity. “It’s about helping as many students as we can get tickets to the middle class,” said Delgado.
And MDC has a broader, bolder vision for its role in cloud computing education: they’re reimagining community engagement and industry outreach. In June 2019, MDC inaugurated its Cloud Computing Center where they host classes, AWS Certification training, workshops, and conferences. “If you want to learn something about cloud computing in Miami, this is the place to go,” says Delgado. With classrooms and conference space for local companies, the center serves as a meeting point for students and potential employers. Students often attend company workshops and public events, where they can network and deepen their knowledge of AWS.
Julian Grillo, who wanted to transition into a career that was “technical, innovative, and futuristic,” was already studying cloud computing on his own when he decided to sign up for MDC’s cloud program. Between the school’s Cloud Computing Center, access to hands-on labs, and feedback from AWS-trained educators, Grillo said, “I’m gaining so much more than what I would be simply studying on my own.”
The institution has already attracted the attention of local employers. Michael Fowler, Vice President of IT for Florida Power and Light Company (FPL), recently visited the campus. “I was really impressed by the quality of the students and the cloud computing course content,” he said. “They are eager to learn how we do business and approach the work with a fresh perspective.”
MDC has a history of collaborating with industry partners to ensure their students are ready for employment. The institution’s data analytics program, for instance, was shaped by feedback from FPL. In 2019, MDC worked with another Amazon program called AWS Educate to develop a degree in cloud computing for students. And with project work crafted in collaboration with Belle Fleur Technologies, MDC gives their students the opportunity to solve real business challenges on the AWS Cloud. Belle Fleur Technologies, like other organizations around the world, have struggled to find high-quality job candidates with the AWS skills they need. “We are eager to hire talented graduates with strong cloud skills on AWS,” said the company’s president, Tia Dubuisson. “We are always seeking great data platform engineers and data scientists for our projects.”
MDC students are already putting their cloud skills to work on the job. FPL recently hired three students from the institution’s cloud computing program. Fowler said he was impressed by the technical skills they were able to demonstrate within just weeks of starting. “The students hired from this program have been able to jump right in and join the team,” he explained, “taking on business requirements and using their AWS skills on cloud optimization work.”
Traditionally, Fowler told us, interns don’t have hands-on AWS experience, so they spend a large part of onboarding learning how to use AWS. “It’s much more efficient, and a much faster time to market, if interns are coming on board with those skills already,” said Fowler. “Your sprint costs can be cut dramatically if you have people with the relevant skills, and they aren’t trying to get up to speed at the same time.”
One of the interns, Miguel De Leon, began his studies in the three-month AWS re/Start training program before starting his Associate’s Degree in Cloud Computing at MDC. “My day to day consists of optimizing, updating, and managing our cloud infrastructures,” he said, skills he first started learning in the classroom and through hands-on labs. “I feel like the cloud has opened doors in my life,” he explained. “I have been able to explore the different pathways, and now I plan to become a Cloud DevOps Engineer.”
FPL’s approach to hiring reflects a belief in bringing in diverse backgrounds and experiences: entry-level interns and new hires are often eager to put their new skills to work and learn from the seasoned professionals. “The combination of getting people who have the various levels of experience to work side-by-side has worked really well,” Fowler said. “It really motivates the more experienced individuals who are working next to them, as well. It brings everyone up.”
Dean Delgado’s vision of MDC as a site of workforce development and a force for of economic mobility in Miami has led to a focus on cloud computing. But it has also led the institution to embrace new, innovative models of student development and education—models that are gaining traction around the United States and beyond. “We are continuing to explore what new pathways could look like for our students: internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training with local companies,” he explained. “With AWS, we are helping both our students and the community by creating the cloud workforce local businesses are looking for.”
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AWS Education Programs are removing barriers to education and forging new paths for individuals to develop cloud expertise, obtain AWS Certifications, and enter the technology workforce. We work with education institutions, governments, and employers to help individuals build AWS skills and prepare for cloud careers. Learn more about AWS Academy, AWS Educate, and AWS re/Start.