Labor experts and tech industry heads have long emphasized a tech skills gap. More advanced digital prowess is required for the vast majority of jobs — about 92% of them, the National Skills Coalition reported in February. And still, business leaders struggle to find qualified talent.
An April report from Gallup, which partnered with Amazon Web Services, revealed the top areas of emerging technology that, according to U.S. employers, are “extremely likely” to be standard for businesses in the future. Robotics, edge computing and quantum computing are on the list, with artificial intelligence and machine learning as well as 5G, which describes an emerging cellular network, at the top. The data also affirmed the ongoing tech skills gap narrative, with 72% of respondents saying it is “challenging” to hire workers with needed digital skills.
In an email to HR Dive, Jenni Troutman, director of products and services for AWS Training and Certification, highlighted the advent of data science as an everyday component of modern business.
“It is relatively straightforward and inexpensive to observe and collect vast amounts of operational data about a system, product or process. There can be tremendous amounts of information buried within gigabytes of customer purchase data, website navigation trails or responses to email campaigns,” Troutman said. “But organizations don’t always have the talent to help extract, analyze and act on this data to make high-quality decisions.”
With AI becoming an increasingly hot topic — as well as integrated product offerings — the need for tech-enabled talent is high, Troutman suggested.
“The good news is you don’t have to have a Ph.D. to become a data scientist, ML practitioner, or ML engineer. And it’s not just IT professionals who can benefit from understanding AI/ML. No matter your role, adding data analytics and ML skills can help put new solutions into action for the business and your customers,” she said.
Along with confirming employers’ desire for tech-skilled talent, the Gallup report also highlighted another ongoing narrative in the learning and development space: workers are hungry for upskilling opportunities. The report suggests that 7 in 10 U.S. workers are either “very interested” or “extremely interested” in digital skills training.
This is where Amazon comes in. HR Dive previously reported on Amazon’s educational benefits, including fully-funded college tuition, and free English-as-a-second-language classes. HR Dive also covered the e-commerce company’s entry-level and mid-level tech skills training programs, which serve as the foundation for its Upskilling 2025 program.
The goal of Upskilling 2025 is to equip talent with skills needed to “to grow their career,” per the program’s portal. It’s a two-pronged approach: commit $1.2 billion to help current Amazon employees “secure new, high-growth jobs” and also, invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” in free cloud computing classes.
Amazon has previously made headlines with cloud computing because of the way it has gamified L&D: first came AWS Cloud Quest, a general cloud solutions video game, then came fintech-specific spin-off Industry Quest: Financial Services.
AWS seems to present its learning opportunities as a middle rung — up its own corporate ladder and those of other tech companies.
Mo Messouak, a cloud analyst at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, originally signed up for a free-tier AWS account to upskill for personal projects.
His interest in the digital world goes back to childhood: He told HR Dive that when he was a little boy, he often watched the movie WarGames. In the 1983 film, Matthew Broderick plays a teen hacker who accidentally taps into a U.S. government supercomputer that runs war simulations — and also has direct access to nuclear missiles.
“I’ve always been into computers and technology,” Messouak said. For every new tech that emerges, he continued, “I always try to dig in and then find out how it works, and how to utilize it to make my life easier.”
In response to pandemic-era supply chain issues — and subsequent shortages — Messouak wanted to create an “inventory checker” for certain products. He ultimately ended up taking AWS re/Start, an in-person or hybrid cohort-based program that occurs over the course of two to three months.
Troutman told HR Dive that her company leadership “has long believed in the power of skills training to change lives, transform businesses and uplift communities.” AWS Skill Builder has more than 600 courses on cloud and quantum computing, she said. The company also offers more than 65 courses on AI/ML through Skill Builder as well as AWS Educate, Troutman explained.
Not only did Messouak gain foundational IT skills; re/Start gave him about 70% of the knowledge needed to pass the AWS-certified solutions architect exam, he said. Messouak also learned what he called “underrated” skills, such as goal-setting and the know-how to ace interviews.
“All the soft skills helped immensely in building up my network, and I have cohorts that I can lean on for advice,” he explained, adding that along with gaining an AWS cloud practitioner certification, he also received resume advice. Regarding AWS program facilitators, Messouak said, “They were an integral part of getting my job. I don't think I would be where I am without the program.”