The business benefits of hiring early career cloud talent
This week, we celebrated National STEM Day, which is a day used to inspire children and young adults to pursue their passions in science, technology, engineering, and math. On this day each year, I like to pause and reflect on the work we’re doing for our customers, how we’re supporting the education of the next generation of cloud builders, and the multitude of opportunities that still lie ahead.
Hiring continues to be a challenge for many of our customers, as we’ve been dealing with the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly two years now. While it’s affected our everyday lives, it’s also magnified our ability to invent and adapt. Fifteen months ago, I discussed the growing challenge many AWS customers faced filling vacant tech roles in a blog entitled, 4 reasons to invest in entry-level cloud talent. I shared how businesses could benefit from hiring highly motivated, skilled, entry-level talent. This strategy allows businesses to rethink how they hire, train, and retain talent to build diverse, resilient teams with a mix of experience levels.
The cloud skills gap continues to grow
The ongoing pandemic, coupled with the ensuing great resignation, has made it harder than ever for employers to hire qualified, experienced cloud talent. The 2020 IT Skills and Salary Report from Global Knowledge indicated that 45% of IT decision makers said one of the leading reasons for skills gaps, and one of the biggest challenges they faced in 2020, was difficulty recruiting and retaining job candidates with relevant experience because there aren’t enough qualified applicants available.
Hiring entry-level talent continues to be an effective strategy for businesses to stay ahead of the technical talent demand. Programs like AWS Academy, AWS Educate, and AWS re/Start are preparing diverse learners for in-demand, entry-level cloud roles around the world. We’re investing in these individuals as they launch their careers, helping them become lifelong AWS learners who can help your company thrive. With experiential learning in the AWS Cloud, our graduates have the skills and knowledge they need to add value on the job.
Here are the new trends we see emerging from the four reasons to invest in entry-level talent I previously shared.
1. Pair motivated, eager-to-learn talent with tenured mentors
The skills gap is wider now than it was 15 months ago when I wrote the previous post. Managers expecting to hire their way out of skills problems face an increasingly scarce candidate pool accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic; there are simply not enough tenured candidates out there to fill all open roles. By hiring eager-to-learn, highly motivated, entry-level cloud professionals and investing in their ongoing growth and skills development, you can build your talent with the exact skills you need.
It’s still true that entry-level talent and tenured employees have a lot they can learn from each other. Mentorship from all experience and skill levels can nurture the growth of entry-level employees, allowing tenured talent more time to focus on complex and challenging projects.
Recent research shows that upskilling is becoming increasingly important to employees. According to a 2021 study by Gallup, “upskilling is the new benefit,” with nearly two-thirds of workers surveyed saying employer-funded upskilling is very important when evaluating a new job. Think of it as investing in them as an employee, and they’ll invest in you as an employer.
Once hired, pair your new talent with more tenured employees to organically build a culture of learning and mentorship. The AWS re/Start program is a full-time, classroom-based skills development and training program that prepares unemployed and underemployed individuals for careers in the cloud and connects them to potential employers. “Adding the [AWS] re/Start program to our recruitment pipeline has been one of the best decisions we’ve made as a business,” says Rob Greenwood, founder and technical director, Steamhaus. “I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to anyone else who is looking to bring in junior AWS engineers/developers with an appetite to develop them. They are always enthusiastic, eager to learn, and progress.”
2. Build a team with various skill levels and existing practical tech experience
Additionally, there’s something to be said for hiring entry-level talent that have cloud training they can use to make an immediate, positive impact on your organization. Last year, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and analytical reasoning led LinkedIn’s global list of the most in-demand hard skills. However, cloud skills gaps have nearly doubled in the past three years. A 2019 study from 451 Research indicated 90% of organizations reported severe shortages. The Global Knowledge study referenced above revealed that nearly 80% of IT decision makers said their teams lacked the cloud computing skills they needed at the time. But that’s where AWS Education Programs can help. Hiring from academic institutions and career training programs ensures individuals have the skills and practical experience to add value to your cloud projects quickly after joining your team.
All our AWS Education Programs include interactive, experiential AWS Cloud training. “This was the best program that I have ever found online. Working in practical labs to gain real-time, hands-on experience along with learning was the best part,” says AWS Academy graduate, Anadi Sharma. AWS Education Program graduates who enter the workforce are ready to make an immediate impact and contribute to important cloud initiatives.
Employers agree. Miami Dade College joined AWS Academy, a program that provides higher education institutions with free, ready-to-teach cloud curriculum and labs. Their program has attracted the attention of local employers, including Michael Fowler, vice president of IT for Florida Power and Light. When asked about the benefits of hiring talent from this program, Fowler said, “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.”
3. Keep your talent longer, saving time, money, and resources
In my previous post, I mentioned that if you invest in and build talent from ground up, you can gain access to cloud-capable builders, rather than competing for higher-priced, experienced individuals. Hiring entry-level talent allows you to hire eager staff with foundational cloud skills. Once you have this staff on board, you can build defined growth paths and targeted training plans for the additional and specialized skills you need, which creates stability and helps retain talent—new and tenured.
By hiring entry-level talent and investing in their upskilling to improve retention, you save money in the long term. In the 2020 State of Cloud Learning Report, 94% of employees said they’re more likely to stay with an employer who invests in their career through skills development. In fact, when top-performing businesses invest in comprehensive cloud skills enablement, Aberdeen research shows that they achieve better business outcomes. Best-in-class companies investing in their employees’ training saw a 17.4% higher employee retention rate and a 19.3% higher average employee tenure.
Providing employer-funded training and a clear career trajectory can boost employee retention for organizations. Fostering the skill growth of your employees can also yield several benefits for your customers, including innovation and collaboration through cloud fluency.
4. Diverse backgrounds and experiences create stability and drive innovation
The idea that employees with diverse backgrounds provide greater stability for your organization isn’t new. But we’ve also seen a correlation between diverse teams and innovation. You can elevate your ability to innovate solutions for your customers by hiring early cloud career talent that comes from a variety of previous backgrounds, not just candidates three or fewer years into their career. Our AWS Education Programs aim to make training more accessible for anyone interested in a cloud career. We have education programs that prepare women and underrepresented minority students for the modern workforce. Many graduates from our programs join us to re-enter the workforce following careers in the military, customer service, and the arts, where they honed unique talents and learned invaluable professional and collaboration skills. These employees come to their new roles with the ability to offer unique perspectives to tackle on-the-job challenges.
Hiring individuals with a range of skills, backgrounds, and experience has a positive impact on business decision-making and innovation. In a World Economic Forum article titled, The business case for diversity in the workplace, Eswaran Vijay, executive chairman, QI Group of Companies, said, “There is substantial research to show that diversity brings many advantages to an organization: increased profitability and creativity, stronger governance and better problem-solving abilities. Employees with diverse backgrounds bring to bear their own perspectives, ideas, and experiences, helping to create organizations that are resilient and effective, and which outperform organizations that do not invest in diversity.”
When we asked Ciara Joseph, a member of human resources at Sitecore, why they were interested in hiring from AWS re/Start, she said, “To bring in recently qualified AWS Certified Cloud Practitioners who have learned a broad range of AWS technologies, fully understand them, and are eager to hit the ground running. It’s a great opportunity to increase the diversity in the team, gain different perspectives, and provide mentoring opportunities to newly qualified graduates with a lot of potential.”
Achieving organizational goals with early career cloud talent
As employers across the globe grapple with labor challenges, trends will emerge. Some will continue to look for experienced tech talent to fill open roles until the talent pipeline runs dry. Others will adapt and turn a scarcity of cloud skills into an opportunity to hire, train, and retain talent differently. Which one will you be? Will you find the value in hiring entry-level talent to build your teams? Or will you continue with the status quo?
AWS Education Programs are preparing graduates for cloud roles in cities and towns around the world—not just major tech hubs. We designed our curriculum by working backwards from employer requirements, ensuring that graduates are qualified and prepared with the skills you need. Much of our course content is aligned to AWS Certifications, and many graduates go on to earn AWS Certifications. 90% of organizations that employ an AWS Certified IT professional say they trust the certification to prepare an employee for a cloud-related role.
Attending AWS re:Invent?
Learn more at our AWS Education Programs fireside chat, Preparing diverse new talent for the modern cloud workforce. This session will be held on Friday, December 3, at 9:15 a.m. PST and will later be available on demand via our re:Invent website.
Kevin Kelly is the Director of Education Programs at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and leads the development of AWS Academy and AWS re/Start, which help prepare diverse learners to pursue in-demand cloud roles by working with higher education institutions, non-profits, and government organizations.