Customer Stories / Retail & Wholesale

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Sainsbury’s Cloud Training Academy Offers Inclusive Cloud Learning Opportunities with AWS Skills Guild

Sainsbury’s Cloud Training Academy is accelerating its cloud journey and fostering a proactive, self-initiated learning culture with the help of AWS Skills Guild.


increased adoption of accessibility technical standard

30 classroom trainings

with 440 participants

700+ participants

attend 11 informal training events

Proactive, self-initiated

learning culture

Spread key messages

for diversity and inclusion


Sainbury's operates over 1,400 supermarkets and convenience stores, including its contactless SmartShop Pick & Go store. Modern customers seek convenient and intuitive ways to shop, so Sainsbury’s focuses on strengthening its in-house technical skills to deliver great customer experiences online and offline.

Sainsbury’s first created 480 digital and technology specialist roles in 2015, and in 2021, it turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and embarked on a plan to build a large-scale, in-house cloud training program to bolster its capabilities and accelerate digital transformation.

Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy logo

Opportunity | Creating a Culture of Self-Driven Learners

Sainsbury’s needed its program to be adaptive, scalable, and exciting to attract colleagues. Most importantly, it needed to reflect Sainsbury’s values and culture. AWS Skills Guild, a customizable skills enablement program with technical and cultural components, was the clear choice. The training framework of AWS Skills Guild focuses on people and organizational culture that are necessary for cloud transformation. Together, they created Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy.

The program launched in July 2021 with a bottom-up framework that encourages colleagues to choose trainings based on their interests. Its offerings were built to fit business needs and colleagues’ interests based on the results of an AWS Learning Needs Analysis (LNA). This tool helped to identify cloud skills gaps and recommended relevant AWS courses for Sainsbury’s. The team created a fit-for-need curriculum and gave colleagues access to everything from virtual classroom training courses to informal learning events like hackathons. This combination of different learning modules created a groundswell of enthusiasm for cloud learning. Further, colleagues are encouraged to spend 10 percent of their time developing new skills, so Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy quickly became a central training hub.

Sainsbury’s has also developed a community of seven Cloud Champions, which are colleagues passionate about sharing their cloud knowledge. The Champions promote program sessions and serve as community leaders, encouraging session participation and cloud practice. In its first 12 months, 440 attendees participated in 30 formal classroom trainings, including Developing on AWS, which teaches how to develop secure and scalable cloud applications; and Architecting on AWS, which teaches how to design good cloud architecture. Sainsbury’s also hosted 11 informal learning events with 704 participants, including AWS Partner Network (APN) Immersion Days, which offer access to workshop content and tools; AWS Jam, a series of challenges that emulate real AWS use cases; and AWS DeepRacer, where developers can get hands on with a cloud-based 3D racing simulator.


AWS Skills Guild had a real drive to make Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy great. We now have technical competency frameworks that are helping our colleagues drive their career progressions.” 

Catherine Townsend-James
Talent Development Consultant, Sainsbury’s 


Solution | Turning Cloud Curiosity into Business Improvements

Sainsbury’s encourages colleagues to use professional curiosity and personal responsibility to create their own learning paths. “Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy puts the control for personal development in colleagues’ hands,” says Graeme Forbes, principal engineer at Sainsbury’s. “You don’t need C-suite approval to run an event in Cloud Academy—you just need a few inspired colleagues with an idea. Then, you can use your 10 percent training time to run something you’d like to explore and share it with others.”

For example, James Goodhand, a senior solutions architect, organized an event to solve ongoing data challenges. He had discovered that siloed teams used different analytics tools, which impacted communication and efficiency. James organized a Machine Learning Day workshop that was attended by 130 colleagues, bringing together data science, engineering, and analysis teams. The event featured an example problem, and to solve it, the teams had to work together to teach and learn their different tools. “People learn the most when they can apply their own problem solving, rather than just being given the answer,” says James. This was the first time that different data teams collaborated on a problem, and the participants’ feedback proved the value of hands-on, cross-team training. James created a framework and repeatable process to improve Sainsbury’s data and analytics strategy, reducing inefficiencies.

Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy has also reinforced its values of diversity and inclusion. For example, in an effort to continuously improve accessibility for colleagues internally, Sainsbury’s needed to make sure that its internal applications were meeting its high standards. The company created new technical standards, which centralized guidelines, tools, and documentation for baseline accessibility. To spread awareness, Sainsbury’s hosted an informal learning session and invited AWS experts to generate excitement. Over 230 product and engineering colleagues learned about Amazon’s approach to accessible design. “The session motivated people to look at how they would meet this new technical standard, having been inspired by what was on show from the Amazon side,” says Bryn Anderson, senior accessibility specialist at Sainsbury’s. The event encouraged technical colleagues to incorporate the new standards into the product design process, increasing their adoption by 50 percent.

Accelerating In-House Technical Talent with Sainsbury’s Cloud Training Academy

Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy unlocked new career aspirations for many colleagues—regardless of background. The initiative, combined with other career development programs, gives all colleagues, including warehouse teams and other noncorporate colleagues, equal opportunities to learn about cloud technology. For example, a financial manager became a data product manager after taking Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy courses. A colleague with no prior machine learning experience used the program to upskill, win an AWS DeepRacer event, and transition into a machine learning–focused role.

Some Cloud Champions discovered their love of teaching. An estimated 20 percent of participants in year 1 did not work in traditional technical roles, and technical colleagues are finding new passion areas. Of participants, 93 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they gained new knowledge and skills from the program. “AWS Skills Guild had a real drive to make Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy great,” says Catherine Townsend-James, talent development consultant at Sainsbury’s. “We now have technical competency frameworks that are helping our colleagues drive their career progressions.”

Outcome | Continuing Evolution of Sainsbury’s Cloud Training Academy with AWS Skills Guild

“By participating in Sainsbury's Cloud Training Academy, our colleagues have more skills, fulfilling our commitment to helping them grow,” says Helen Hunter, Chief Product and Analytics Officer of Sainsbury’s. “The program has had a significant benefit to our wider organization.” Sainsbury’s has inspired over 600 colleagues to explore cloud technologies, amplifying its proactive and self-initiated learning culture. Based on its success, Sainsbury’s will continue to offer the program as it keeps investing in its people to propel its digital transformation.

About Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s is a major grocery retailer in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1869, Sainsbury’s is headquartered in London and operates over 1,400 supermarkets and convenience stores.

AWS Services Used

AWS Skills Guild

AWS Skills Guild is a programmatic approach that helps you accelerate cloud outcomes by creating excitement, increasing employee engagement, and nurturing a culture of learning.

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Put your skills to the test by solving challenges that emulate real AWS use-cases across a variety of subject matters.

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AWS DeepRacer

Developers of all skill levels can get hands on with machine learning through a cloud based 3D racing simulator, fully autonomous 1/18th scale race car driven by reinforcement learning, and global racing league.

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APN Immersion Days

AWS Partner Network (APN) Immersion Days offer AWS Partners access to workshop content and tools developed by AWS Solutions Architects and packages it for AWS Partners to use exclusively with their customers.

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