How did we get here? The AWS talent crisis explained

By Danny Aspinall

group of professionals with title 'how did we get here: the aws talent crisis explained'

The IT talent gap and cloud computing skills shortage is impacting the Amazon Web Services (AWS) community significantly.  

Gartner estimates that the global cloud market’s value will rise to $494.7bn by the end of 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 20.4%. AWS already boasts a 33% market share of this space and looks intent on more, reporting 37% year-on-year growth in Q1. 

This boom in the cloud computing space aligns with the rapid uplift in demand for cloud solutions across the globe. The demand for cloud skills in APAC looks set to triple by 2025, for example, while 68% of North American organizations plan to rely more on AWS managed services in the next 12 months.  

But an insufficient supply of AWS professionals means that more and more businesses are struggling to find the talent they need to execute these plans.  

In the Jefferson Franks Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition, more than half (54%) of respondents faced challenges with their AWS implementation because they lacked the appropriate skills internally. More than a fifth (22%) also blamed a lack of appropriate skills available in the market.  

All this has led IT leaders across the globe to declare a talent shortage in tech, with more than 70% viewing the cloud skills gap as an urgent concern. With forecasts predicting the IT talent gap could cost as much as $8.5tn in global losses by 2030, it’s easy to see why.  

But how did we get here? In this blog post, we’re exploring how a perfect storm of three causes created an ever-widening skills gap and an ever-pressing AWS talent crisis.   

 The pandemic accelerated demand  

An already rising demand for cloud solutions was undoubtedly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

According to one report, as many as 81% of firms accelerated their cloud computing plans due to the pandemic, while a survey from Flexera featured 29% of business leaders reporting a significant increase in their cloud spend. A further 61% of business leaders reported spending slightly higher than planned on cloud solutions as a result of COVID-19.  

graph showing the change from planned cloud usage due to covid-19

This surge in businesses moving operations to the cloud throughout the pandemic was logical and, in many cases, a necessity. The cloud was no longer a preference; it was essential.  

This was driven by three primary reasons: 

  • The need for better business resilience: Business conversations around cloud computing began to move away from perks like quicker innovation and cost optimization. Instead, factors such as flexible computing power, disaster recovery, and high availability topped the list of most sought-after benefits. In an age of lockdowns and uncertainties, the agility granted by cloud solutions became invaluable to ensuring business resilience and continuity. 
  • The need for business evolution: Throughout the pandemic, businesses were forced to pivot their operations, evolving their models and practices to better serve a socially distanced consumer base. Demand for cloud solutions spiked across sectors as brick-and-mortar industries were forced online; retailers required more chatbots, online ordering, and digital payment solutions, while the public sector needed AI, telemedicine and e-learning solutions.  
  • The need to adapt to remote working: With the introduction of social distancing, most businesses began asking their employees to work remotely. According to our most recent Careers and Hiring Guide, 82% of AWS professionals were working remotely full-time (5 days a week) during the pandemic, compared to just 24% pre-COVID. This brought about new challenges for businesses who needed to ensure the continuity, collaboration and cybersecurity of a remote work force. 

Impacting virtually all sectors, the pandemic drove a surge in cloud demand from industries worldwide. But businesses didn’t just need cloud solutions; they needed specialist talent to implement and maintain these highly technical solutions, too.  

As a result, the demand for skilled cloud professionals spiked just as sharply as the demand for cloud solutions, with organizations hunting for cloud talent at an unprecedented rate. According to job listing data from Indeed, the share of cloud computing jobs per million workers increased by 42% between 2018 and 2021. 

But this increased demand far outweighed the supply of qualified talent, with a cloud computing skills gap and a highly competitive employer market placing the power in the hands of those most in demand.   

Talent has been tough to attract and retain  

An indirect consequence of the pandemic was its influence on attitudes towards an improved work-life balance.  

As a result of this new found perspective, the number of people quitting their jobs surged to record highs; a phenomenon labeled ‘The Great Resignation’ or ‘The Great Reshuffle’. 

The Washington Post reported how this trend directly correlated with the outbreak of the pandemic, with a sharp increase is voluntary resignations first observed in April 2020, just one month after the introduction of lockdown in the United States. The Great Resignation peaked in August 2021 when 4.3m Americans (2.9% of the entire workforce) quit that month alone.

graph showing americans are quitting their jobs

The Uptime Institute captured employers’ difficulties retaining employees within the datacenter industry. In 2018, 17% of business leaders were having difficulty retaining staff because they were being hired aware, compared to 32% in 2021.   

graph to show data centers are finding it hard to retain staff

The introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine and a return to some sense of ‘normal’ has done little to squash this trend. One in five workers plan to quit their jobs in 2022, according to one of the largest surveys of the global workforce. 

This accelerates the cloud computing skills gap and resulting AWS talent crisis further still: not only is talent hard to find, but it’s harder to attract and retain, too.  

With more and more employees keeping one eye on the job market, businesses with workers skilled in AWS looked to protect their assets. In our Careers and Hiring Guide, 62% of AWS professionals reported receiving a pay rise since the start of the pandemic – 67% of respondents working for a partner and 44% of those working for an end-user believed that this was because their market value had increased, and their employer wanted to keep them. A further 33% and 22% respectively believed their pay increase was a result of a lack of AWS skills on the market meaning their employer was keen to keep them.  

Incentivizing AWS talent to stay with extra financial rewards appeared to be a smart move, with 76% of respondents who did move jobs reporting a pay increase of 25% on average. So, in order to attract and retain the best AWS professionals from a small pool of talent, businesses must face the prospect of a bidding war.  

That doesn’t just pertain to salary, either. The imbalance in the supply and demand of AWS professionals means skilled workers hold the aces in the job market. As a result, businesses are also offering a range of attractive perks to secure the talent they need.   

85% of permanent employees tell us that, salary aside, workplace benefits are an important factor when deciding whether to accept a job offer. Off the back of this, we’ve seen AWS talent offered a range of enticing extras, from common benefits like bonuses and flexible hours, to less conventional perks including pet insurance and office games rooms.  

Remote working also continues to prove very popular amongst the AWS workforce – 82% of professionals tell us that the ability to work remotely in their role is important to them.   

This all amounts to AWS talent being able to leverage their skillset against the competitive employer market to find the position that best suits them. This leaves roles unfilled as businesses fail to navigate the cloud skills shortage by meeting the wants, needs, and expectations of in-demand talent.  

Hiring strategies are short-sighted  

The accelerated demand and competitive employer market exposed a longer-term cause of the cloud computing skills gap: short-sighted hiring strategies.  

Within the cloud space and wider tech sector, the focus of hiring strategies tends to be placed on experience, with 93% of AWS professionals believing that years of experience in IT is an important factor.  

While this preference is understandable in highly technical areas like AWS, it actually makes the talent crisis worse. A lack of investment and foresight has led to reactive hiring in the cloud space, and many organizations are now facing the consequences of not tackling this systematic problem earlier.  

This attitude is representative of the wider IT talent gap worldwide, too. In the UK, for example, an estimated 11.6 million Britons (35% of the country’s workforce) require digital skills training within 12 months to keep pace with technological advancements. 

The cloud computing skills gap and AWS talent crisis, then, highlights the lack of efficiency and longevity in going to market reactively to find cloud talent: In short, you have a limited choice within an already limited selection of specialists.  

As long as businesses keep dipping into the same pool of talent, this problem will persist, only furthering existing problems of diversity and inclusivity within the AWS ecosystem.  

Of the AWS professionals in our Careers and Hiring Guide, a concerning 87% were male and a further 51% of White or Caucasian ethnicity. When asked whether their employer promoted racial and ethical diversity in their workforce only two-thirds (66%) agreed, while over half (53%) of all respondents believed gender inequality exists within the tech industry. When surveying just women, a significant 76% of AWS professionals believed there was gender inequality in their industry.  

By failing to address the problem of diversity and inclusivity within the cloud space, businesses are only contributing to the AWS talent crisis. In order to discover new specialist talent, relevant candidates must be given the chance to obtain the experience and expertise that’s so highly sought after.  

To bridge the cloud skills gap and manage the AWS talent crisis, organizations must start thinking longer term when assembling their technical teams, providing ample training and opportunities for a sustainable team of specialists to thrive.  

As Zoë Morris, President of Jefferson Frank, noted, “as society increases its digital footprint and the demand for tech talent grows, it is our duty to ensure that the door is open to aspiring technologists of all genders, orientations, abilities, and backgrounds.” 

Looking for specialist AWS talent to join your team? You’re in the right place. Browse our current list of skilled professionals or submit your job vacancy today to be matched with the candidates your organization needs in as little as 48 hours.  

The ultimate resource on careers and hiring trends in the AWS ecosystem.

The Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition provides a unique insight into the Amazon Web Services community.

Download the guide

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