Connecticut state colleges and universities have joined more than 200 other higher education institutions across the country in offering a certificate program in cloud computing developed by Amazon Web Services and tailored to the tech giant’s technology.
The program and the way it is administered, through public and private colleges and universities, is a way for Amazon – which dominates the cloud computing industry – to strengthen the pool of skilled workers who can support the brand. company services in all sectors. AWS provides computing power to companies like Disney, Netflix, Facebook, and NASA.
According to an AWS spokesperson, AWS is currently training CSCU instructors in its “free, ready-to-teach, cloud-based study programs,” which will be offered to students pursuing certifications. The course will cost students just under $ 800 – paid to CSCU to cover instructor salaries – but state officials say they plan to help subsidize this with funding from the US federal bailout. . Upon completion of the course, students will be required to pay for and pass an exam administered by AWS to achieve certification. It will not count for college credit.
âThere is definite growth in the market for these skills, and we want to get as far ahead as possible,â said Niall Dammando, chief of staff for the Connecticut Office of Workforce Strategy. . Dammando said there have been more than 40,000 job postings in the state for cloud computing jobs over the past year, and a growing number are specifically looking for candidates with AWS certifications. The state aims for at least 2,000 residents to complete the AWS Academy program, as it is known, within the next three years. âThe goal is for all of those 2,000 people to find jobs in Connecticut,â Dammando said, although no guarantees have been given by AWS.
While the program addresses a clear need in the high-tech talent pool, some question the role of the state and its higher education institutions when it comes to such targeted training.
Gordon Lafer, a professor who studies workforce policy at the University of Oregon, said that as higher education budgets have tightened, it has become commonplace for state universities to join forces with industry and specific companies to offer vocational training.
“From a public policy perspective, it would be better if people got degrees with broader skills or qualifications, to give people more job options and more power in the labor market,” he said. Lafer said.
âThe tension here is between lifelong learning and so-called personalized training,â said Greg LeRoy, executive director of economic development watchdog group Good Jobs First. âPersonalized training isn’t necessarily a bad or a good thing,â LeRoy said, but problems arise when public schools âbecome an extension of a company’s HR department and the company actually does nothing but transfer its internal training costs to the public sector. ” And if training programs focus on training people in a specific skill set, it could push employers to adopt technologies that the workforce is already familiar with – in this case, AWS.
But AWS has already cornered a disproportionate chunk of the cloud computing market, analysts say, and its tools have become ubiquitous for businesses and organizations across industries.
According to AWS, more than 86,000 students worldwide have completed its AWS Academy courses. Besides Connecticut, there are eight other statewide AWS Academy initiatives in Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, and Utah. Most other states have multiple schools that offer the program, including 36 locations in California.
âHundreds of thousands of businesses are using cloud computing technology from AWS,â said Thomas Coley, president of the Shoreline-West region of Connecticut Community Colleges. âThey need talent to work, to operate systems, to do programming, to design systems. By training these people, we are providing a skill set that can be offered across multiple industries, âColey said. âThis is what the industry wants.
Coley said the community college is also working on a certification program with Google that it plans to offer soon. Other CSCU schools list certificate courses specific to Honda, General Motors, and Cisco. And the state has partnered directly with General Dynamics Electric Boat on vocational training programs for its submarine-building workforce.
Amazon has a reputation for seeking national and local tax breaks and workforce development funds. And while the AWS Academy program does not include tax breaks or financial incentives, according to Dammando, it gives AWS clear advantages in today’s competitive high-tech job market.
âI suspect this isn’t the first tech company to dominate in an industry where they are forcing a professional certification divide around it,â LeRoy said.
According to Amazon, the company invested $ 4 billion in Connecticut between 2010 and 2020, “including infrastructure and compensation for our employees.” There are four Amazon distribution and sorting centers in Connecticut, seven delivery stations, and nine Whole Foods markets.