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Creating a pool of cloud skilled workforce is one of our top priorities: Vincent Quah, AWS

Vincent Quah, Regional Head, Education, Research, Healthcare and Not-For-Profit Organisations, Worldwide Public Sector – Asia Pacific and Japan, Amazon Web Services speaks about how AWS Educate will be critical in bridging India's skills gap in emerging technologies

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Can you give a brief background of AWS Educate in India, any key milestones?
The AWS Educate program is Amazon’s global initiative to provide students and educators with the resources needed to accelerate cloud-related learning, and to help power the workforce of tomorrow. AWS introduced the AWS Educate program in India in 2016, with the aim of upskilling students with the latest advancements in cloud computing technology, and providing them with an environment to experiment on AWS Cloud, without worrying about cost or access challenges.

Students receive several benefits upon approval into AWS Educate including:
– AWS Promotional Credits to gain hands-on experience in using AWS technology and services
– Learning content designed to get students comfortable with the basics of cloud computing
– Access to 12 Cloud Career Pathways covering in-demand topics such as machine learning, cybersecurity, and software development, each with over 30 hours of content
– Opportunity to earn AWS digital badges for different competencies such as IoT, gaming, and Alexa skills
– In June 2019, AWS announced three new digital badges for the students:
* AWS RoboMaker – Allowing students to build virtual environments to learn robotics skills
* AWS DeepRacer – Allowing student to gain experience using reinforcement learning
* AWS Sumerian – Quickly create Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and 3D experiences
– The AWS Educate’s Job Board with job and internship opportunities from Amazon and other companies in the AWS Partner Network

The Cloud Career Pathway framework enables students to put their cloud knowledge to use across 12 self-paced pathways. These include popular pathways such as Cloud Computing 101, Cloud Support Engineer, Data Integration Specialist, and Machine Learning Scientist among others. Each pathway includes instructional content, assessments, and a final project. Upon completion, learners are eligible to receive an AWS Educate Certificate of Completion or an AWS Educate Badge. In addition, companies offering cloud and technology jobs and internships can register on the AWS Educate’s Job Board, where they can post openings and reach a pool of cloud skills qualified job seekers.

Globally, hundreds of thousands of students have joined AWS Educate since its launch, and tens of thousands of students at higher education institutions in India are part of the AWS Educate program. More than 2,400 institutions are members of AWS Educate, including IIT Kharagpur, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell Tech, Seoul National University, and the National College of Ireland.

What are the key factors driving the demand for cloud-skilled workforce in India? Do you have any important statistics to share regarding this?
As more organisations look to meet the growing storage, security, and data needs, they are shifting from the traditional on-premises data centres to cloud services. As a result, cloud skills demand is rapidly increasing across all company sizes and industries around the world. According to Linkedin’s report dated January 2, 2018 entitled “The Skills Companies Need Most in 2018”, “Cloud and Distributed Computing” is the Number 1 hard skill that companies need the most. Many government ministries and public sector entities are adopting a cloud–first policy and looking to move government workloads from traditional datacenters to the cloud.

Also, according to the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs 2018” report companies are seeking to harness new and emerging technologies, to reach higher levels of efficiency of production and consumption, expand into new markets, and compete on new products for a global consumer base composed increasingly of digital natives. More and more, employers are therefore also seeking workers with new skills from further afield to retain a competitive edge for their enterprises and expand their workforce productivity.

Which states have you partnered with for skill development initiatives? In the future what are your plans for strategic partnerships with various state governments?
AWS is committed to the vision of leveraging transformative technologies to ensure social and inclusive growth impacting the lives of citizens. Last year, we collaborated with the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) to launch their cloud-based skill development initiative. The Cloud For All-Knowledge and Skills Mission aims to skill 60,000 students across 300 engineering and non-engineering colleges in the State. AWS is helping APSSDC build cloud computing technology skills across the State using our AWS Educate program.

ICT Academy ran the AWS Educate Program as part of a Cloud Literacy Month in November 2018. From across seven states in India, 149 educational institutes participated in the Cloud Literacy Month program. Over 17,000 students registered for AWS Educate program and more than 15,000 students initiated AWS Educate learning pathways. The program was conducted in Engineering and Arts & Science institutes across India for students pursuing their first and second year of graduation.

The West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation Ltd. (Webel) adopted the AWS Educate program to develop a cloud ready workforce in the state. Webel plays the role of the nodal agency for the state government of West Bengal in assisting the state government in nurturing the electronics and IT industry of the state, as well as driving a series of concentrated efforts to structurally address the talent concerns of the electronics and IT/ITES industry in the state.

AWS Educate team is also collaborating with NASSCOM to integrate the AWS Educate program in the FutureSkills platform for academia and focusing on nine emerging technologies: Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, Robotic Process Automation, Internet of things, Social & media, Virtual Reality, 3D printing and Cloud Computing.

Amongst other customers in India under several skill development initiatives, we also have alliances with Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and CSC e-Governance Services (set up by the Ministry of Electronics & IT).

How do students and faculty from higher education institutions benefit by registering with AWS Educate program?
We’ve talked about how students benefit earlier. Educators meanwhile have access to the AWS Educate’s Educator Portal loaded with tools to help them better integrate AWS Cloud technology into their curriculum. Professors, teaching assistants, and other educators gain access to AWS technology using the AWS Promotional Credits, open source content contributed by educators around the world in which they can adapt for their courses, training resources, and professional development opportunities. There are also Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and Learning Management Systems (LMS) integration tools for educators.

What is your engagement with these institutions in terms of R&D?
Globally, hundreds of millions of students, educators, and researchers in over 200 countries and territories have access to education technologies and online curriculum running on AWS. Ninety six percent of R1 Research Institutions (Doctoral Universities – very high research activity) are using AWS, including Cornell University, Arizona State University, and the University of Notre Dame.

We are seeing universities adapt the AWS Educate program in different ways to meet their needs. Some use it for curriculum development, some for hackathons, and others for skills development. One of the challenges that research driven educational institutions face is the high cost of access and availability of High Performance Computing (HPC) labs needed to prototype and test a researcher’s hypothesis. Previously, that would involve incurring capital costs to procure high-specification hardware servers, laptops, and software in order to run tests and simulations. Today, researchers have access to AWS Promotional Credits that allow them to gain equal access to AWS Cloud services, and the advanced technology includes artificial intelligence and machine learning from AWS Cloud – that our largest commercial customers or public sector entities access. So, they can set up a HPC lab at a fraction of the cost and shut it down when not in use. They only pay for the services they use when they use AWS Cloud.

For example, we have also collaborated with premier institutes such as Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi, to help establish a Cloud Research Lab on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). The Cloud Research Lab will provide students with opportunities to use AWS Cloud technology to pursue research initiatives that focus on AI and ML innovation for India. We also work with Gujarat Technical University, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati to help facilitate the adoption of AWS Educate among students in these educational institutions.

In the long term, what key role will AWS Educate play in India’s skill development mission, particularly with reference to cloud skilling?
India has a vast community of developers, startups and entrepreneurs. NASSCOM last year highlighted that around 140,000 jobs remain vacant in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data Analytics segment across various sectors in India, out of the total demand of over 500,000 employees in the country. Global Programs like AWS Educate that we provide for India will prove to be critical in bridging the huge skills gap in emerging technologies, and help students get relevant cloud computing jobs.

Creating a pool of cloud skilled workforce is one of our top priorities. AWS Educate is designed to upskill students with the latest advancements in cloud computing technology and provide them with an environment to experiment on AWS Cloud, without worrying about cost or access challenges. The Cloud Career pathways for example are created in direct response to the in-demand job roles that employers around the world need, while increasing our alignment to labour market trends and providing our AWS Educate members with a current perspective of workforce needs.  The pathways represents the most in-demand entry and mid-level roles in the cloud industry.

Is there any other important factor you would like to highlight?
The cloud has helped organisations transform digitally, be it via a new business model, a new data analytics platform that gives them actionable insights, or accelerating machine learning via a managed machine learning service like Amazon SageMaker. There is a need to push for the innovation agenda for India as a way to leapfrog and jump ahead faster with newer innovations, and AWS is the platform to drive that innovation.

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]


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