The Fast-Track to Cloud Computing and Higher Salaries: Bay Area Community Colleges Collaborate to Fill Growing Industry Demand

Students attend Amazon Education event on Cloud Computing in East Palo Alto, California

Cloud-computing is revolutionizing the tech industry and widening the gap between professionals with relevant skills and skyrocketing industry demand. Bay Area colleges and high schools are hoping to meet the demand by partnering with Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of Amazon, to offer students cloud computing skills required to fill more than 6,000 jobs in the region.

“Through Amazon Web Services Educate’s collaborations — like this Bay Area consortium of community colleges, K-12 schools and California higher education partners — we’re addressing the skills gap head-on, at scale, and with a unified solution,” said Ken Eisner, director of Worldwide Education Programs at Amazon Web Services.

The partnership offers free resources to gear up cloud computing programs and help diverse student populations across the entire region kick start cloud careers.

Participating colleges include: City College of San Francisco, De Anza College, Evergreen Valley College, Las Positas College, College of San Mateo, Mission College and SIATech High Schools, with Cañada and Foothill Colleges being the first colleges to mobilize cloud classes this semester.

“I think it will take all of us, everybody, including the four-year schools, to meet that gap,” said Teresa Ong, associate vice president of Workforce and CTE Programs at Foothill College. Ong is one of the leaders who helped spearhead the Bay Area partnership.

With so many community colleges coming together, the region can achieve an economy of scale and have a tremendous impact on students and industry alike, according to Ong.

The first Amazon Web Services partnership started in 2017 with the participation of 19 community colleges in Los Angeles. This partnership helped fuel the Bay Area collaboration a year later when according to Ong, “Amazon literally knocked on our door.

To get the programs off of the ground, Amazon Web Services has been offering training and technology assistance to faculty to set up classes. They are also maintaining a curriculum and providing a technology expert to facilitate its development and implementation.

Most importantly, Amazon Web Services is equipping colleges with cloud technology. In the new courses, students will develop real-world skills with their own cloud accounts where they can set up networks and use simulation software.

“We as a college can’t afford a million-dollar database,” said Professor LaVaughn Hart of Las Positas, where Amazon Web Services is providing those resources and helping cloud classes start this spring. She added that Las Positas College has a robust networking program, and by adding cloud computing to the mix, their students can branch out further.

Hart believes that cloud computing is the “wave of the future.” With the new classes, students will gain hands-on experience using cloud storage and applications in the work environment. And there is a lot in cloud computing to master.

A huge component of cloud computing is securing data. Cloud professionals also have to think about “architecting” their services when it comes to storage options to serve a variety of users. In the courses, students will also learn to write structured query language, perform backups, and address compliance issues, as well as rules and regulations. Though the course will be grounded in Amazon’s interface, the skills will be transferable across different cloud providers.

One of the most compelling things about the Amazon Web Services partnership to Hart is that community colleges are being recognized as an ideal place to grow the talent pipeline.

“This is huge for community colleges to be starting to break down that four-year mentality that has been very pervasive in many tech companies,” she said. 

Salomón Dávila, project team member of the Los Angeles and Bay Area Amazon Web Services partnerships, agrees that perspectives about community colleges are changing. “The trend is that the higher-level degrees aren’t necessarily required,” said Dávila. “There’s a lot of emphasis on certification and experience, which we’re trying to supply through this program.”

The key to success is the regional approach, which is boosting enrollment and development, according to Dávila. Regional collaboration creates a whole ecosystem of support where community colleges can leverage economies of scale, learn from each other, and catapult students into the field to fill critical gaps.

“It is our job to stay one step ahead of industry trends so that our students will be prepared to enter this ever-changing and dynamic workforce,” said Dr. Maniphone Dickerson, division dean for Business and Workforce Development at Evergreen College.

“This partnership with Amazon Web Services and the collaboration with other community college colleagues is going to help prepare Silicon Valley’s future workforce.”