AWS Training and Certification Blog

The BMW Group upskills 2,500 employees with Platform Academy, builds sustainable workforce in South Africa

To redefine automotive innovation, the BMW Group is equipping itself for the future with the necessary tools and expertise for collecting, analyzing, and managing data. The company has started its biggest qualification initiative called “Digital Boost”. In addition to that, in 2021, the company worked alongside AWS to launch an expansive learning program that upskilled more than 2,500 employees in data analytics, data science, and software development.

A pivotal development was the establishment of the BMW Platform Academy with a focus on AWS Cloud skills, which empowered the company’s next generation of engineers.

Building upon a multiyear digital transformation

As a global automotive manufacturer of luxury vehicles and motorcycles, the BMW Group seeks to use data to make its offerings smarter, more functional, and more intuitive. To accelerate data-driven innovation, the company embarked on a multiyear digital transformation journey while working with the AWS team.

As part of this strategy, the BMW Group established IT delivery hubs in South Africa, Portugal, and India to manage the growing demand for IT personnel. These hubs help provide a solid foundation for software development and use cases in the fields of data analytics and artificial intelligence, helping the company develop customer-facing and internal applications. With a greater emphasis on data, the BMW Group was determined to bridge the cloud, analytics, and machine learning skills gap among its technical teams.

“Skills training is important to maximize the full benefits of the cloud,” says Alex Gutfreund, head of product and technology integration at the BMW Group. “AWS has a lot of experience in how we are using the services and building on AWS. The whole curriculum for the BMW Platform Academy was a joint effort between our two teams.”

Empowering youth in South Africa

In January 2023, the BMW Group launched the BMW Platform Academy in South Africa, its largest IT delivery hub. The company piloted the program in the region for 6 months and upskilled a group of over 50 recent university graduates, who later joined the delivery teams. The curriculum focused on foundational AWS skills, data analytics, and machine learning, and it introduced participants to BMW-specific technology. Each participant had the opportunity to earn AWS Certification, which validates technical skills and cloud expertise on topics ranging from basic cloud services to advanced capabilities.

South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, and by offering this program, the BMW Group is empowering young people with in-demand IT skills to boost their competitiveness in the global job market. “As a global company, we are well aware of our social responsibility,” says Danie Smit, general manager of analytics, artificial intelligence, and platforms at the BMW Group. “We are not only making a difference in graduates’ lives but also equipping them to become experts in their field and earn a steady income.”

During the first phase of the program, learners participated in self-paced learning using AWS Skill Builder, an online learning center, to build on their foundational AWS knowledge. In the second phase, the training was focused on specific roles, such as data science, data engineering, and software development. This phase incorporated curriculum based on the AWS services that were most important to the BMW Group. Learners also participated in labs, virtual classroom training, and AWS Solutions-Focused Immersion Days, a series of events designed to educate users about AWS services.

“I love the BMW Group’s mentality about continuous learning and improvement,” says Paul Louw, a participant in the BMW Platform Academy. “The BMW Platform Academy is tailored specifically to your job description, so when you start being integrated systematically into your team, you feel more confident in what’s expected of you.”

The BMW Platform Academy concluded with experiential training from AWS experts in the form of a hackathon, where participants engaged in real-life use case simulations. They also participated in challenges through AWS Jam, a gamified learning environment, to practice real-world problem-solving using AWS services.

“When I joined the IT delivery hub, I didn’t know about cloud services and their impact on businesses,” says Thenjiwe Ntsonda, a participant in the BMW Platform Academy. “The program helped me learn what it’s like for a company to use technologies like those offered by AWS.”

Upskilling global teams to drive business value

Equipped with valuable cloud skills, the graduates who participated in the first BMW Platform Academy were able to provide value to their teams from day one after graduation. They are helping develop innovative solutions, such as building an artificial intelligence platform and supporting mobile analytics. Many graduates are also helping design and operate the BMW Digital Twin, which involves creating a digital representation of each physical vehicle produced by the company and capturing data throughout its lifecycle. The BMW Group aims to use these digital representations for a variety of purposes, with an emphasis on addressing sustainability challenges in the automotive industry.

“The upskilling project in South Africa has had a major impact in terms of creating value for our partners,” says Gutfreund. “With the number of students that we took in last year, we can provide value to our partners as well as our internal customers much faster.”

After the success of the first program, the company is hosting a second iteration to help current employees strengthen their cloud skills and learn new technologies. In 2024, the BMW Group will extend the BMW Platform Academy to its other IT delivery hubs and open the program’s doors to their employees.

As of 2023, the BMW Group has upskilled more than 2,500 developers, data scientists, and solutions architects across its AWS Training programs, including the BMW Platform Academy. This strategic initiative has not only fortified the company’s data proficiency but also set a robust foundation for advancing innovative projects. The investment underscores the BMW Group’s dedication to shaping the future of automotive excellence and driving digital transformation in the industry.

The BMW Group upskilling program was a collaborative effort involving AWS experts and training instructors. To gain insight into how AWS helps organizations accelerate their cloud journey and take on transformative initiatives, delve into the comprehensive offerings of AWS Training and Certification, alongside the specialized support and guidance provided by AWS Professional Services.