Access to digital skills training is one of the key challenges facing not only individuals, but the public sector, commercial organisations, and governments, as many seek to create customer-focused and secure digital services. Earlier this year AWS released the research study Unlocking APAC's Digital Potential: Changing Digital Skill Needs and Policy Approaches, conducted by AlphaBeta, which predicted Australia needed an additional 6.5 million newly skilled and reskilled digital workers by 2025 - 79% more than exist today.

When the pandemic swept across Australia, most workers could not have perceived the challenges that woud lie ahead, or what the future held for their career. Lockdowns hit numerous industries hard, and many Australians realised they need to retrain in new skills to find more stable employment.

Last year Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched its AWS re/Start program. AWS re/Start is a free, 12-week full-time skills training program that prepares unemployed, and underemployed, for careers in cloud computing. The program is delivered by training partners including Goanna Solutions, Academy IT and FDM in Australia, and New Zealand’s largest training provider, Tu Pukenga in New Zealand. The program provides integrated training including technical, behavioural, and mindset skills, mentoring, social support services, job application, and interview preparation. Over 90% of learners are connected with an employer at the end of the course.

Skills to Launch a New Career

Sazia Khan worked in hospitality for over 10 years, but has always had an interest in IT. When the pandemic hit, Sazia realised that she needed to pivot her career to one that offered more opportunity and stability, “When an opportunity came up with the AWS re/Start program to reskill in tech and cyber security during last year’s lockdown, I jumped at the chance.”

“The program helped me gain the skills and expertise in cloud computing and cyber security for my new job at Accenture,” Sazia says. “I faced a steep learning curve when I first started in the role, as I was new to the professional services industry. But AWS re/Start didn’t just give me technical skills, it also taught me how to be a valued team member of a digital team.”

Surprisingly, Sazia says there are similarities between her new role and her old career in hospitality.

“When I worked in an airline crew, the main part of my role was to ensure the safety and comfort of the customer,” Sazia says. “It’s not so different when it comes to my work in professional services. It essentially boils down to understanding the customer, what their requirements are, and solving their problems in an effective way.”

Upskilling Leads to Opportunity

Joe Howe is a cloud engineer who used the program to help him rejoin the employment market after spending five years taking care of his young son. Despite his previous experience in IT, Joe’s break from work to be a full-time parent meant it was challenging for him to find a new job. “It was wonderful to spend five years with my son, but it was virtually impossible to find a job after being out of the workforce for so long, despite my prior IT experience,” said Joe.

“After six months of unsuccessful job hunting, my friend recommended the AWS re/Start program, which gave me the skills necessary to successfully secure my current IT job,” Joe says. “One week after I graduated from AWS re/Start, I was offered two jobs, which was a great boost of confidence.”

Joe took a role as a Cloud Engineer at the AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, Itoc, a rapidly growing Australian business known for developing scalable Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions that help customers accelerate and de-risk their journeys into the cloud. “I joined Itoc in August and have just passed the AWS Certified Developer - Associate exam. I am excited to continue upskilling through the numerous courses offered by AWS,” he says.

Learning for Success

Rhind Mulitalo, who graduated from the first AWS re/Start cohort in Auckland in New Zealand, initially enrolled in AWS re/Start after spending a year seeking employment. “Growing up, I always had a passion for gaming and computing, and I discovered software development in my first year of university,” said Mulitalo. “After completing a Diploma in Information Technology – Technical Support, I spent a year looking for a job just as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in New Zealand. As time went on, it became more daunting to look for a role. The AWS re/Start program provided me with practical workplace skills and cloud training, which led to a full-time role with Datacom. This job has brought structure, stability, and financial security to my life, and I’m extremely positive about my future.”

Building today’s digitally skilled workforce

AWS re/Start is one of a number of programs that AWS is investing in to help bridge this skills gap. Another example is AWS Skill Builder, which provides a free digital learning experience and access to more than 500 free on-demand courses to people in over 200 countries and territories.

These and other programs are all a part of AWS’s broader goal of supplying free cloud computing skills training to 29 million people by 2025. Bringing together all segments of the ecosystem – educators, government, industry, and the broader community – is the best way to address the immense challenge of ensuring organisations have access to the skills they need to make rapid adaptation possible, and working towards rebuilding resilient businesses for the future economy.

You can learn more about AWS re/Start and AWS Skill Builder at AWS Training and Certification.