AWS Training and Certification Blog

Creating a more inclusive workforce for women at AWS Skills Center

According to Gartner Research, women hold only 26% of tech-related roles in the global workforce, a diversity gap that reveals a significant opportunity for women to make up a larger share of tech workers. Although multiple causes are behind this demographic disparity, one of the core issues is a lack of easily accessible and affordable skills training.

To help rectify that situation, AWS Skills Center, Absa, and Women in Tech recently collaborated to create an impactful new program in South Africa called “Skill Up in the Cloud.” Featuring several days of in-person training and ongoing digital activities, this program is designed to narrow the skills gap and open new career opportunities for women job-seekers. In particular, the program is focused on reskilling or upskilling the participants with in-demand cloud computing skills.

A specialized initiative to build job skills and confidence

Program participant works on cloud skills trainingThe program launched at the AWS Skills Center Cape Town facility to help unemployed female graduates learn cloud skills and fast-track their career opportunities in tech. The program’s primary objective is to help the participants progress toward earning a globally recognized cloud certification.

As the program’s host organization, Women in Tech recruited 50 female computer science and engineering graduates through its alumni network and university partnerships to attend the specialized program in September 2023. During that time, the participants received expert-led training on cloud computing fundamentals, explored job roles in the cloud, and began their preparation to take the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam.

Throughout the program, cloud experts from AWS and Absa provided career coaching and shared their real-world insights with the trainees. The approach was designed to equip these women with practical job skills to make them more competitive candidates for open roles and long-term tech careers.

A collaborative initiative with a common goal

The “Skill Up in the Cloud” program is yet another initiative supported by AWS as part of its goal to provide free cloud computing skills training to 29 million people globally by 2025. Program participant learns about cloud at AWS Skills Center Cape Town

According to Chris Erasmus, country manager at AWS South Africa, removing barriers to IT education remains a critical element of the program: “People with cloud technology skills are in high demand globally. By providing an in-person learning space for anyone in the local community—regardless of background—AWS is helping build a diverse pipeline of entry-level cloud talent.”

Likewise, Absa views the program as an embodiment of its ongoing commitment to promote gender diversity and women’s professional advancement in South Africa’s tech sector. Daleen Pretorius, head of Platforms Cloud at Absa, notes, “Gender diversity is an important imperative for Absa. We are focused on promoting women’s education, training, and professional development to close the gender gap in the technology industry. This program is a testament to our commitment, aligning seamlessly with our purpose of Empowering Africa’s tomorrow, together—one story at a time.”

For Women in Tech, “Skill Up in the Cloud” is a manifestation of its worldwide mission to empower 5,000,000 women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) fields by 2030. As Melissa Slaymaker, Africa regional director at Women in Tech, affirms, “This program aligns with our mission, and we are proud of the impact it has already made.”

The next step for graduates

Program graduates gather at AWS Skills Center Cape TownThe program culminated in a graduation ceremony at AWS Skills Center Cape Town in December 2023. The sponsors and graduates gathered to celebrate the dedication and promise of the 50 women as they continue their journey toward becoming AWS Certified Cloud Practitioners—a credential that validates that their knowledge and expertise on fundamentals of cloud computing.

One of the participants, Monica Rolo, explains, “I truly believe that learning and growing is one of the most rewarding things. I’m a big advocate of opportunities and career-wise, I’d love to take on bigger projects and share my learning by mentoring others, because cloud is definitely the way forward.”

With cloud computing continuing to level the playing field and open new career paths, programs like “Skill Up in the Cloud” will play a crucial role in improving workforce diversity. Given the projections for exponential cloud growth over the next decade, that impact will only compound as more talented women enter the job market.

Going forward, this program can also serve as a model for effective collaboration between industry, government, and social outreach programs in bridging the digital divide and empowering women to become leaders across the ever-evolving tech landscape.

Learn more about the program sponsors

AWS Skills Centers are free, in-person training centers for anyone who is curious about cloud computing and job possibilities in the cloud. The centers feature interactive exhibits and free cloud skills training with classes that you can attend in person or virtually.

Absa is a Pan-African group that has operated in Africa for over 100 years and is committed to finding tailored solutions to uniquely local challenges. As a financial services provider, Absa plays an integral role in the economic life of individuals, businesses, and nations to unlock opportunities through innovative solutions.

Women in Tech Global is actively building a more inclusive tech industry with the mission of empowering 5,000,000 women and girls in STEAM by 2030. To achieve that goal, the organization focuses on four pillars: education, business, digital inclusion, and advocacy. The South Africa Chapter has already empowered over 30,000 women and girls through its education programs, events, and IT centers.