In with the new: how training can transform the business

Although most employers still prefer to hire computer science graduates for tech roles, the case for a broad approach to recruitment and upskilling is strong
New Project 40

For better or worse, the significance of digital skills has grown to almost mythic proportions over the last decade or so. With five million cloud computing job vacancies around the world, such roles now top the list of positions that are currently most difficult to fill.

This talent shortage appears to have various undercurrents. On one hand, the global market for cloud computing is growing apace, generating increased demand for attendant skills and capabilities. According to information services firm GlobalData, the sector’s value is expected to hit $736.3 bn this year. But with a predicted compound annual growth rate of 16.3%, this figure is likely to jump to $1,159 bn by 2026.

On the other hand, many employers take an all too conventional approach to hiring, giving way to what AWS coins a “self-imposed skills gap” in its Global Digital Skills Study in partnership with analytics and advisory firm Gallup.

Although as many as 75% of employers questioned across 19 countries, including the UK and the US, indicated they were open to hiring workers with non-degree credentials, such as industry certifications, the report revealed a notable disconnect between claims and actions.

Key among these findings, 36% of employers admitted to preferring a bachelor’s degree or postsecondary equivalent qualification for entry-level jobs that required digital skills. Similarly, half of all international jobs advertised with digital skill requirements expressed a partiality for degrees. But only 31% of workers with advanced digital skills made the cut in terms of qualifications.

Organisations can build up highly skilled employees to fit their business needs, and individuals can start to carve out a path for their own career progression

When asked to select between two hypothetical candidates for a tech job, employers nearly always favoured candidates with computer science degrees over otherwise identical jobseekers without. But this hard-line stance means businesses are fishing in an increasingly shallow talent pool. Perhaps, writes Maureen Lonergan, VP, training and certification at AWS, it’s time for a new approach.

Keeping an eye on potential

Existing employees can sometimes be neglected as a source of talent – despite often having adjacent, transferrable skills. Not to mention, entry-level tech staff could be ripe for upskilling too.

Many start in roles such as technical support, troubleshooting, quality assurance, testing or remediation work. But they could be retrained to take on more complex and challenging tasks over time.

“Starting new hires out with these types of tasks helps them gain mastery of the overall tech stack, sets them up to progress in their careers, and before long, they are ready to take on more complex and challenging work over time,” Lonergan notes.

Organisations can build up highly skilled employees to fit their business needs, and, in turn, individuals can start to carve out a path for their own career progression, which can do wonders for retention, Lonergan explains.

She points to AWS Skill Builder, a learning and development option for cloud computing that provides employees with access to more than 600 free courses, which cover over 30 AWS services and include certification training as a means of supporting these important aims.

The benefits of certification training

Upon migrating to AWS to meet the growing demand of its 5.4 million customers for digital products, Vietnam’s Techcombank, found that it needed to address its cloud computing-related skills gaps. With that, it established a second key aim: shifting the entire organisation’s culture to one of continuous learning.

More than 2,800 employees undertook over 4,000 pieces of AWS Skill Builder-based training alongside 105 classroom sessions. The move saw provisioning time fall from more than a month to just five days, enabling the bank to undertake more frequent application updates and deliver product prototypes to market faster.

Another organisation that profited from training technology generalists to become cloud specialists is cloud computing consultancy and AWS partner, Cloudreach. After seeing demand for its services grow exponentially, the firm decided it needed a new approach to recruitment – not least due to the high price tag associated with hiring in advanced cloud skills.

To this end, it created the Cloudreach Talent Academy to transform people with little or no technical background into fully-fledged cloud developers within two years.

“By widening our talent pool, we not only tackled the talent crisis but continued to live by our values of creating an environment that nurtures talent,” says Poonam Flammarion, head of the academy.

The future is transformative

Lonergan argues that supporting employee training can yield dividends in the long run. Businesses that fund employees’ exams and certifications could experience productivity gains and increased innovation and retention.

She points to Comcast’s Sky Group Ltd. The media and telecoms conglomerate was keen to migrate to AWS, but its staff across Europe lacked the requisite skills.

So, it selected various certification courses to encourage employee commitment to training and boost proficiency. 94% passed their certification exam - a resounding success - and the company has committed to running biannual certification preparation training for workers.

This kind of learning approach can have positive ripple effects beyond the tech team. Volkswagen, for instance, has invested in creating a cloud-centric framework to boost cloud knowledge and skills across its finance, sales, HR, marketing and even admin departments. The upshot? Greater cross-team collaboration and a faster time to market for its products.

But it does not stop there. As has become clear, generative AI has the potential to considerably boost organisations’ efficiency, productivity, and ability to innovate. Unsurprisingly then, three quarters plan to adopt big data, cloud computing, and AI over the next five years, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs report. With it, demand for suitable expertise will rise exponentially too.

Lonergan affirms that sooner or later, businesses will need to get on board with advances in AI and machine learning. AWS has piloted a raft of newly-announced innovations in the space to offer learners, decision-makers and its partners more than 80 AI and ML courses and learning resources to navigate the ‘new normal’. The company’s online platforms, AWS Skill Builder and AWS Educate, are targeted at new-to-cloud learners of varying backgrounds and experiences.

In other words, whether it’s building knowledge and practical skills to prepare for tomorrow’s technological environment, learning the ins and outs of deploying generative AI or boosting productivity across the business, training is at the heart of transformation.

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