AWS Academy’s big bet on higher education
The challenges of higher education around the world are widely known and lamented: rising tuition costs that reduce the perceived return on investment, challenges with equity and accessibility, and the growing gap between the needs of employers and the skills of graduates. These trends are contributing to a crisis of confidence in education systems worldwide. In the United States, Gallup polls show that confidence in higher education has been falling since 2015, and in the United Kingdom many students are worried about the value of their qualifications.
Although alarming, these trends are opening the door to new opportunities for innovation and collaboration. Higher-education institutions are being forced to rethink their business models and approaches, to find creative ways to stay relevant and competitive, and ultimately to deliver better learning experiences and outcomes for their students.
But the burden of preparing new generations to join the workforce cannot fall only on the shoulders of higher education. Industry also has a responsibility—as well as an enormous incentive—to engage and support institutions. According to Manpower Group, 54 percent of companies globally report talent shortages, the highest in over a decade. At Amazon Web Services (AWS), we hear from our customers and partners that this skills gap is acute in the cloud computing space, where employers have both a “quantity” and a “quality” challenge: colleges and universities are not producing enough graduates with the cloud skills employers need. To effectively and intentionally solve this challenge and build the required talent supply chain, academia and industry must work together.
This is why we are investing in higher-education institutions around the world with AWS Academy. Designed to build a pipeline of entry-level talent in cloud computing, the program provides institutions with AWS-authored courses and educator training free of cost. We believe that higher education remains a crucial site for workforce development globally, and we are committed to making sure that educators have the skills and resources they need to prepare students for in-demand roles.
What, exactly, does effective collaboration between academia and industry look like? We are seeing it unfold in communities across the globe, in rural and urban areas, at small community colleges, and at large research institutions. The most successful institutions are those that are forward-looking, flexible, and committed to the employability of their graduates.
At Charotar University of Science and Technology in India, for instance, AWS Academy accredited educator, Sandip Patel, is working with two local start-ups to provide students with hands-on AWS project work. After local recruiters visited the campus, more than 20 AWS Academy graduates have already been placed in cloud-specific roles in local companies.
In New Zealand, the highly ranked University of Auckland is harnessing AWS Academy courses to respond to the local demand for cloud–computing talent. Dr. David TJ Huang, an AWS Academy accredited educator at the university, told us one of his students was interning at Brave New Coin, a data and research company in Auckland. When he graduated, they offered him a full-time role as a big data engineer working on AWS. With success stories like this, Dr. Huang told us that the demand for the AWS Academy course is so high, they plan to triple their enrollment numbers this year.
Globally, the need for cloud-computing talent is vast. AWS Academy is just one program that is successfully scaling to address the “quality and quantity” challenge. We are building a global talent supply chain and fostering innovative and scalable collaboration between industry and academia. To be effective, this model requires that both sides commit to understanding each other’s unique pressures and strengths. It requires they prioritize career outcomes and job placements. And it requires they demonstrate flexibility and innovation to change old patterns and ways of working.
Only then will we ensure that higher education remains a place where tomorrow’s business leaders, engineers, builders, and entrepreneurs emerge with the skills they need to add value in the workplace and continue a lifetime of learning.
Kevin Kelly is Director of Certification and Education Programs at Amazon Web Services (AWS) where he is responsible for the global development of certification programs that validate AWS skills mastery as well as the development of a set of cloud career enablement programs.