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AWS commits to addressing long-term UK cloud skills shortage

Amazon Web Services debuts its Re:Start programme, as it strives to do its bit to close the UK cloud skills gap

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has set its sights on expanding the UK’s supply of cloud talent through a series of skills-boosting initiatives targeted at school children, young adults and ex-military personnel.

The main focus of its work in this area centres on its Re:Start programme, which the cloud giant formally launched at an event in Westminster, London, on 12 January 2017.

Through partnerships with The Prince’s Trust and the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the programme seeks to help young people and those preparing to leave the armed forces develop skills in cloud technologies.

The programme is designed to accommodate the needs of people with varying levels of capability, including those who have no previous experience of using cloud technologies.

As such, participants will be offered access to QA Consulting-led technical training classes, where they will learn how to build cloud applications using AWS and programming languages such as Python, and be schooled in how to create secure and compliant off-premise environments.  

They will also be given the opportunity reinforce and build on what they have learnt through work experience placements at customer and partner sites. For example, Tesco Bank, Direct Line Group, EDF Energy and are among those already committed to offering on-the-job training opportunities through the scheme.

This, in turn, could pave the way for participants to go on to secure entry-level technical positions, including helpdesk support to software developers and networking engineers, at some of these companies, AWS said.

The company hopes that up to 1,000 people will be given the opportunity to participate in work placements via the programme in due course, with the first cohort set to join the initiative on 27 March 2017.

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Speaking to Computer Weekly, Gavin Jackson, managing director for the UK and Ireland at AWS, said the company is supporting the programme’s launch with outreach work in the armed forces to attract those considering a change of career direction once they leave military life.

“We know the Ministry of Defence work very hard on career transition, so there is an interested and captive audience there, and what they’re looking for when they enter civilian life is a path.

“And it’s a perfect marriage when you have a motivated group of people on the one hand and a motivated customer base on the other,” said Jackson. “If you can provide them with the skills they need to deliver the jobs for the future and marry those two things together, it can be extremely valuable.”

The programme’s launch should be considered a reinforcement of AWS’s commitment to furthering the UK’s continued adoption of cloud computing, he said, which it has already thrown its weight behind with the opening of its first UK datacentre region in December 2016.

A better path, a better future

“Lots of our customers are using cloud computing to deliver their business, and that is putting a tremendous strain on the jobs market, and overwhelmingly our customers tell us that one of the things they have a gap in at the moment is the skills to run those digital projects.

“We wanted to find a way of not just doing what we’re good at, which is taking current technical people and making them more technically proficient on AWS, but finding ways to tap into other cohorts and increase the digital population,” said Jackson.

“It’s helping people get onto a better path and future, and helping our customers deliver against their digital projects, which is something they have told us they need.”

Developing course material for schools

In addition to its Re:Start efforts, AWS is also in the throes of developing course materials for children and teachers at schools to teach them how to build cloud applications.

This initiative will see AWS work closely with the non-profit Micro:Bit Foundation, which is doing its bit to encourage more schoolchildren to develop coding skills through the provision of a handheld Micro:Bit computer to every year seven child across the UK.

AWS’s decision to throw its weight behind the Micro:Bit forms part of its push to ensure the UK has a consistent pipeline of cloud talent entering the jobs market for many years to come.

“We’re thinking about addressing the current demand for cloud skills, and there is a longer term supply issue,” said Jackson. “Our collaboration with Micro:Bit is to designed to inspire more young people into technology.”

“The growth we’ve enjoyed comes out of the work our customers are doing with AWS, and it’s those people who are driving demand for skills through their own ambitions. If we can do our bit to support that, it’s going to be good for the economy overall.”

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