AWS Launches New Cloud Computing Workforce Training Initiatives

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  • The DC region gained the newest AWS Skills Center, an in-person cloud tech learning space.
  • AWS expands re/Start program to support growth in cloud-focused careers.
  • The company is offering career support for Ukrainians through the IT Skills 4U program.

Are you interested in starting or expanding a career in cloud computing? You may want to consider several learning options offered by Amazon Web Services. AWS recently introduced three initiatives to help people start cloud computing careers.

  • AWS opened a new in-person cloud tech learning center near Washington, D.C.
  • AWS has expanded its re/Start program.
  • The company started an initiative to support Ukrainians interested in the cloud.

Most organizations and people use the cloud every day without realizing it.

Did you binge-watch Netflix recently? Your shows live in the cloud. Have you recently connected with someone on Zoom? That's cloud-based too. Did you share files with work teammates, family or friends on DropBox or Google Drive? Those are cloud services.

In simple terms, the cloud refers to off-site servers and software. Users access the software and servers through the internet. Cloud servers can exist anywhere, but usually, they operate within data centers.

The cloud allows you to use powerful off-site hardware and software. With this approach, companies and individuals can use digital resources, apps and tools that might otherwise be out of reach.

Here's a closer look at what AWS is doing to expand cloud tech learning and job opportunities:

In-person AWS Skills Center Opens in DC's Virginia suburbs

AWS's second skills center opened in October. It's in Arlington, Virginia, near Amazon's second headquarters. The center offers free cloud computing exhibits and skills training. The first AWS Skills Center opened in 2021 in the Seattle area. It's near Amazon's first headquarters.

AWS Skills Center in Arlington, Virginia

Where: 1550 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202

When: Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Class hours: Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center is closed on major holidays.

What: The AWS Skills Center in Arlington, Virginia, offers a "discovery space" where people of all ages can interact with exhibits highlighting how cloud technology powers robotics, space exploration gaming, and home technology. Visitors can also participate in free, in-person classes about cloud computing and cloud computing careers.

How: You don't need a technical background to get involved. The goal is to guide people to develop entry-level cloud skills, discover other AWS programs, or potentially earn an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner credential. Everything offered at the center is free.

If you're interested in discovering what cloud computing is all about, the center might be worth a visit. The 10,000 square foot space has "a nice inviting learning environment that has some really inspiring exhibits that I think are worth looking at," said AWS Director of Cloud Career Training Kevin Kelly.

Virginia Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater and First Lady Suzanne Youngkin, wife of Virginia Gov. Glen Youngkin, joined Kelly at the center for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Following the ceremony, Slater and Youngkin joined Kelly in an informal conversation.

Kelly, Slater, and Youngkin discussed workforce development and how K-12, higher education, and employers can work together to increase the pipeline of people in the DC region and beyond who are interested in tech and cloud computing jobs.

AWS training and certification instructors run the center and lead the learning experiences. Kelly said Amazon advocates for and provides grant support for all types of higher education.

"But we also recognize that there are a lot of adult learners, nontraditional learners that need access to programs that are faster than a two-year or four-year degree program."

— Kevin Kelly, AWS Director of Cloud Career Training

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He said people interested in bootcamp-style programs like Amazon re/Start often want to align their learning with pathways that lead to an AWS certification.

The world went virtual when the pandemic hit. But offering in-person options is a way to accommodate different learning styles and preferences.

"Different learners learn through different modalities and different learning venues," Kelly said. "And that's why we're offering the in-person instructor-led training because some learners learn best there. Especially foundation-level learners. … Bringing a learner in who's never seen a cloud console and saying, 'Here's the cloud console — have at it,' is probably not the most effective learning approach."

What Is Amazon re/Start?

Kelly said the skills center "represents a collection of initiatives" to expand Virginia's cloud computing workforce and STEM education. You don't need a tech background to apply for the free AWS re/Start program. This 12-week-long classroom-based program focuses on helping local communities develop pipelines of people with cloud skills.

AWS also recently expanded re/Start. The program's newest track focuses on helping unemployed or underemployed people broaden their information technology skills. The goal is to help people rise into mid-level cloud careers.

The re/Start curriculum includes networking, security, automation and essential AWS Cloud skills. It's run in partnership with local organizations. Participants receive job-specific training to work as technical support specialists, systems administrators, or cloud automation leads. AWS says 98% of graduates receive entry-level job interview opportunities.

Virginia resident Rick Armstrong went through the re/Start Foundation program before the new track was introduced. He worked in the restaurant industry in management roles for over 25 years. But after getting furloughed at the start of the pandemic, Armstrong "decided that it was time for a career change," he said in an email.

Asked what his greatest takeaway was from the program, Armstrong said: "Besides attaining the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification, it gave me the confidence that I could finally change my career situation."

Armstrong had an interest in tech but no professional tech background. That made the program's section on Python "a bit challenging but still understandable after working with it."

After completing re/Start, he now works as an AWS account manager for TD Synnex Public Sector, assisting end customers in higher education and state and local government. In the future, he says his goal is to "attain the AWS Solutions Architect certification and the AWS Security Specialty."

"It gave me the confidence that I could finally change my career situation."

— Rick Armstrong

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Other related initiatives include AWS Think Big Spaces and AWS re/Start. AWS also recently launched IT Skills 4U. It's a free workforce development program. The goal is to help Ukrainians interested in pursuing cloud computing careers. AWS is partnering with the Poland-based nonprofit Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers (ZPP) to offer IT Skills 4U.

Kelly has decades of experience in the tech and cloud industry sectors. He's been with AWS for over 13 years. "I'm personally very motivated and excited to work on these kinds of programs because it helps connect people with life-changing opportunities," he said. "With the in-demand workforce requirements that the cloud is creating, I get an opportunity to help people make those upskilling, reskilling connections to gain access to employment in the cloud."

Kelly said a big part of his role is empowering people to see themselves in a cloud-based career. "Everybody doesn't have to be a machine learning-Ph.D. algorithm writer. Everybody doesn't have to be a coder. There are lots of opportunities for leveraging and using the cloud. And for me, personally, it's helping connect them with those opportunities that I find so rewarding."

Frequently Asked Questions About AWS re/Start

What do you learn in AWS re/Start?

Participants in the AWS re/Start program learn job-specific skills for roles like technical support specialists, systems administrators, and cloud automation leads. You'll also get hands-on experience with Linux, Python, networking, database and AWS Cloud skills. All the learning experiences are designed for people who don't have a tech background.

Do I qualify to participate in AWS re/Start?

AWS offers re/Start in collaboration with various organizations worldwide. General qualifications include having a high school diploma or GED equivalent. You must also be available to attend training sessions set by the partner organization. You should also have an interest in a cloud computing career. Finally, you'll be expected to apply for and pursue a new job after completing the program.

What kind of career support does AWS re/Start offer?

In addition to technical skills, AWS re/Start participants receive training in professional skills. They include communication, interview coaching, and resume writing. Program participants also have opportunities to connect with potential employers.

Feature Image: Nitat Termmee / Moment / Getty Images