Why Amazon Web Services is giving 29 million people free education and skills training

 Access to education and training in the tech sphere can potentially make a difference for workers from all walks of life, and Amazon Web Services is making a global effort to help employees find their footing in this lucrative field.

The platform will offer more than 500 free courses through their Skill Builder program to train those interested in cloud computing and other tech-related skills. The training will be available in 16 languages and accessible to more than 29 million people in 200 countries and territories.

“We build training offerings, such as digital courses and in-person learning, to help people gain an education in cloud computing,” says Scott Barneson, director of learning products at Amazon Web Services. “It’s an essential skill for people who are looking for a lot of career opportunities right now."

A subsidiary of Amazon, AWS provides cloud computing platforms, allowing users to access applications and data from any device without being tied to a specific server. For instance, Netflix engineers need to build and operate a cloud so its members can stream movies and shows. AWS enables the engineers to do so, explains Barneson.

For those interested in making a career switch or learning these skills from scratch, participants can take courses to guide them down career paths like solutions architect, data scientist, or developer. AWS also expanded its re/Start program, which offers free reskilling training for the unemployed or underemployed. The 12-week online course prepares individuals with little to no experience in the tech world for entry-level cloud computing jobs. According to AWS, 90% of graduates leave the course with job interview opportunities.

Moalyne Honore, 2020 re/Start graduate, notes that the program's fast-paced, 9-to-5 routine was a sacrifice, but one that paid off. While Honore previously worked in education and communications, she is now a governance risk and compliance engineer for ByteChek, a cybersecurity software company. Still, Honore continues to learn more through free programs, like She Builds CloudUp, which is offered through AWS.

“Never in a million years did I think I would be working at a cybersecurity software company,” says Honore. “ I took a chance and I couldn't be happier with my choice.”

AWS has even expanded into in-person teaching, opening its Skills Center in Seattle. It will showcase how cloud computing is applied to various industries and how the technology comes to life by offering interactive exhibits on robotics, space, games, and sports. The center also holds free classes for cloud beginners.

“For folks just getting started, we hope that by participating in the skills center, they'll get inspired and connect with others who are on a similar journey and build a sense of community,” Barneson says. “We want to meet learners where they are and try to address the fact everyone is going to come from different backgrounds, languages, learning preferences, industries, and aspirations.”

While these courses and skills are especially relevant for those in the tech sector, Barneson encourages employers to consider relating this ideology to their own workforce. The AWS Global Digital Skills Study found that 2 in 3 employees do not feel confident enough to keep up with the digital skills they need for their careers, and 85% of workers feel they need more technical knowledge to do their jobs because of the pandemic.

“Every company has to be a digital company now,” Barneson says. “Whether an organization is working remotely or just trying to reach customers, digital skills are essential in communicating and delivering to your community.”

Employees want employers to support them as ongoing learners, Barneson explains, and that investment pays off as both a recruiting and retention tool. AWS found that 84% of employers saw improved retention rates after establishing skills training programs.

“When employees feel like the company is investing in their future success, they're more likely to stay,” says Barneson. “When they feel more capable of performing the job that is expected of them, it builds loyalty and confidence.”

Whether employees reskill and remain with their organization, or explore new opportunities, AWS could be the place to start. Honore says it took just one step to change her career – and her life.

“You don't have to be brave, you just need to be willing,” she says. “You will be scared, but it is worth it. Your world may just change for the better like mine did.”

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