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To learn cloud skills, community colleges are the place to be

Last week, Amazon Web Services said it is partnering with community colleges and high schools to offer cloud-computing certificates. “The 19 community colleges—which include Citrus College, Long Beach City College, Los Angeles Trade Tech, Pasadena City College, and Mt. San Antonio College—are hoping to take the program statewide. The California Cloud Workforce Project also is looking to forge agreements with four-year institutions to establish an associate’s degree in cloud computing,” according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Not all are in California: Also included is Northern Virginia Community College, where I was an adjunct professor for eight years. 

I’m not surprised by this news. We have a severe cloud skills shortage, and so there is high demand for people looking to increase or obtain the cloud computing skills necessary to get those gigs. Today, cloud skills could add as much as $50,000 to $75,000 to your yearly salary, depending upon your current position.

Although they can find on-demand training from providers and third-party training services, many people want to get their cloud skills along with traditional IT skills, such as databases, programming, and architecture. 

Universities have done a poor job in keeping up with relevant technology trends. You often find classes for a technology that’s either gone or on its way out, which means demand for those skills has disappeared or will soon disappear as well. Moreover, you pay about a thousand dollars per credit hour for the privilege of taking the outdated class—a class that may be mandated for graduation. 

By contrast, community colleges often focus on the tactical skills required by popular technology rather than the basic foundations of the technology itself. Teaching skills has long been community colleges’ core mission. Indeed, many of my students already had advanced degrees and were just looking for the knowledge bump at work.

So, should you learn cloud skills in the same building where we learn welding and basic auto repair? Yes. And why not?

Cloud computing training is now so fragmented and confusing that most people don’t know where to start. If community colleges can create a curriculum that supports both basic and advanced cloud skills, including provider-specific skills (such as AWS), then that’s an effective option to get workforces up to speed on what the cloud is, what it does, and how to effectively use it for the business. As a bonus, the curriculum is cheap and usually just down the street. 

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