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The Forecast for L.A.? Lots of Clouds

For the past three years, LinkedIn has identified cloud computing as the No. 1 in-demand global skill. Now, in a first-of-its-kind program, 19 community colleges in the Los Angeles area are offering a regionally recognized curriculum and certificate in the high-wage career. And they are doing it with one of the leaders in the field: Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Jobs requiring training in AWS cloud computing have increased by 177 percent in the past four years. There are now about 2,000 annual job openings in the L.A. area, and that number is expected to grow each year, according to the California Cloud Workforce Project (CA Cloud), as the coalition of the 19 community colleges and their partner high schools are known. This high demand for skilled workers led to this new approach. It’s the first time AWS has collaborated with a group of community colleges to offer training and a certificate in the field.

Working closely with AWS over four years, Santa Monica College (SMC), part of the CA Cloud, created the curriculum. In just 15 units, the program provides industry-standard skills, including application development, database management, cloud security, and hardware and software system requirements. SMC rolled out the first class this summer at its Center for Media and Design and it sold out overnight. The program is now being taught at all of the 19 CA Cloud schools in the area.

Just as one single school couldn’t fill the need for training new workers, one single stakeholder couldn’t fund it. Many parts of the community joined together to bring this certification program to life — academia, government and business. While Santa Monica College developed and offered the first classes, funding from a state grant and those other partners enabled the program to be expanded.

“Jobs requiring training in AWS cloud computing have increased by 177 percent in the past four years.”

“Our talent development systems were configured for an industrial-age economy. As we transition to an economy where IP (intellectual property) and knowledge are now the primary factors that means that we have to recalibrate our systems to support where this economy is going,” said David Flaks, the chief operating officer for Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC). “It’s becoming a lifeblood issue — not only for the community college system but also industries as skills get more specialized — for them to effectuate these types of partnerships.”

The Center for a Competitive Workforce, whose mission is to support industry-informed education and workforce programs and curricula across Los Angeles and Orange counties, is one of those many collaborators on this particular program. “The Center will serve as that regional clearinghouse, if you will, almost a center of innovation for all our different talent development systems. It shows they can create the requisite programs curricula, stackable certificates, etc., that will be reflective of what industry actually demands from our talent development pipelines,” Flaks said.

For the students, after they complete the certification process, they also get a leg up looking for work. They’re given access to the AWS Educate Job Board, created to match people who have graduated with the needed cloud computing skills with companies, including Amazon, that are looking for workers. They also get access to additional training and other micro-certifications through AWS Educate.

“We’re excited to see this level of collaboration at a regional level, bringing essential IT education and skills to a growing workforce to meet the demand for tech-focused jobs in L.A.,” said Andrew Ko, director of Global Education at AWS. AWS Educate is also sharing the CA Cloud curriculum as a model for other institutions, educators and workforce development groups around the world who are interested in growing the number of people with much-needed cloud computing skills in their own communities. n

Ramona Schindelheim is the senior business correspondent and executive producer for WorkingNation.

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