By Danny Aspinall
The cloud skills gap is perhaps the biggest problem facing the AWS community today.
In fact, Global Knowledge found that 76% of IT decision makers have reported skills gaps, a significant rise of 145% from 2016. This aligns with findings from Gartner, who report that IT executives consider the tech skills gap to be the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies.
This isn’t slowing down the uptake of cloud technologies, however. Gartner estimates that global cloud spending will reach $482bn by the end of 2022, up 22% from 2021. Further estimates predict this spending will account for 45% of all enterprise IT costs by 2026.
This high demand is reflected in the uptake of Amazon Web Services (AWS) too, which grew 37% year-on-year in Q1 of 2022, with a 33% market share of the cloud computing space.
These numbers make it clear that not only is the AWS skills gap a pressing issue for organizations today, but unless the issue is addressed, it will continue to be one in the years to come.
The AWS skills gap has systemic causes that can’t be resolved overnight but addressing these issues now will help to bridge the gap in the future.
Bridging the cloud skills gap requires a systemic overhaul of approaches to training, learning and development (L&D), as well as shifting attitudes towards equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI&).
In this article, we analyze how these causes are being addressed today to predict what the AWS skills gap will look like in 12 months’ time, as well as the impact this is likely to have on approaches to hiring AWS talent.
Amazon’s leading advice on tackling the AWS skills gap is to promote training, learning, and development opportunities.
“Enterprises that invest in actively training and validating the expertise of their internal talent are more likely to solve the cloud skills gap earlier, which helps to determine how quickly they’re able to leverage the cloud to deliver results”, recognize AWS in a blog post.
This is supported by findings in the Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition, with organizations citing a lack of appropriate skills internally as the biggest challenge they face during AWS implementation.
Upskilling existing members of your IT teams in cloud technologies can help organizations to successfully navigate the skills gap in the next year. But for this to work most effectively, this needs to happen alongside the introduction of established AWS expertise and skill. Efi Merdler-Kravitz, VP of R&D at Lumigo, explains how the two can work in unison:
To ensure this internal training and development is efficient and strategic, AWS introduced AWS Learning Needs Analysis. This free self-assessment tool analyzes your team’s current skill levels to identify skills gaps and specific business areas that will benefit most from cloud education and training.
AWS Skill Builder subscriptions were also introduced in August 2022, empowering organizations to sign teams up for constant access to engaging L&D resources.
These tools are intended to support businesses in internal AWS upskilling, training, and education efforts, but is admittedly a long-term play. When considering the professional landscape, where 70% of employees haven’t even mastered the skills they need for their current jobs and 64% of managers don’t think their employees will keep pace with future skill needs, it’s clear that internal training alone isn’t a solution to the immediate demand for cloud services.
Amazon also recognize that refilling the talent pool is key to addressing the dramatic imbalance in the supply and demand of AWS professionals.
As a result, AWS delivers several educational programs that prepare learners for in-demand, entry-level tech roles. This training is designed by the leading experts at AWS and boasts hundreds of hours of learning across online and classroom environments:
Of course, the more candidates that successfully upskill or cross-train into AWS, the deeper the pool of qualified talent available on the market. But again, the rapid uptake of AWS far surpasses the pace at which entry-level candidates can sufficiently upskill.
Finally, Amazon remain keen to facilitate the education and growth of existing AWS specialists.
This should remain high on the agenda for organizations, too. The race for talent means expanding your team isn’t your only concern when navigating the skill gap – you also need to protect your existing talent.
Including your existing AWS team in your training and development initiatives can be an effective way to do this. Our Careers and Hiring Guide showed that AWS professionals consider training and learning opportunities as a motivating factor in considering a new role, yet despite this just 54% reported being satisfied with the opportunities currently being offered to them.
Across the next 12 months, organizations should look to protect their AWS assets by offering upskill and training opportunities in the following areas:
An efficient way to do this is to assist your talent in earning AWS certification. And the good news is that organizations are slowly recognizing this: our Careers and Hiring Guide showed that 65% of professionals with certifications had received full or partial funding for their certifications.
Conversely, this also demonstrates that there’s room for improvement in the next 12 months. Employers funding professionals’ certifications is the top factor motivating respondents to get certified (at 56%), so look to provide this in order to keep your AWS team satisfied and successfully navigate the talent shortage.
Better yet, this will also help to bridge the skills gap longer term. Again, studies show that businesses are slowly coming to this realization: Global Knowledge found that over 90% of decision-makers believe that cloud-certified employees provide added value above and beyond the cost of training. This includes building internal excitement for skills mastery, meaning employees are more inclined to take up internal training opportunities that, over time, reduces the wider demand for AWS professionals.
Deservedly, EDI also looks set to be an area of industry focus across the next 12 months.
Particularly in the tech industry, organizations are being encouraged to prioritize equality and diversity when hiring, mentoring, and retaining employees.
Numerous studies that demonstrate a huge disparity in racial and gender equality across the tech space. For example, studies from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show that the high-tech industry employs fewer women, Hispanics, and African Americans than other private sector s.
This imbalance is represented both industry wide – with Pew Research reporting that only 9% of STEM workers are Black and only 8% are Hispanic – and within the AWS community. In our Careers and Hiring Guide, 51% of respondents self-reported as white or Caucasian, 26% as Asian, and just 6% as Black, African, or Caribbean.
This problem is, of course, systemic. That’s why AWS committed to tackling ED&I issues at their roots by investing hundreds of millions of dollars to provide free cloud skills training to 29 million people from all backgrounds by 2025. So far, the program has helped over six million people gain cloud skills.
But responsibility also lies with employers and hiring managers. Ensuring fairness and parity should be top of the agenda in any professional environment, even if it’s from a purely business perspective. But by emphasizing ED&I in your hiring strategies, businesses can also help to bridge the skills gap shorter term.
Tara Tapper, chief people officer at Cloudreach, explains how the two are intertwined. “Demand is made worse by the narrow pool of candidates available,” said Tapper, “diverse candidates had not been invited to the IT table until recently, which has put them behind in years of work experience and has caused a senior-level disparity, making the skills gap worse.”
The cloud skills gap is a result of an ever-growing number of organizations hunting for experienced and immediate hires, all dipping into the same pool of talent as a result. But this pool lacks ethnic and gender diversity, and until candidates from all backgrounds are given the opportunity to obtain the experience and expertise so in demand, these inequalities will only be amplified within the AWS community.
To help bridge the cloud skills gap in the next 12 months, employers must look to eliminate bias and implement fairer hiring practices.
Be conscious of gender biases in the wording of your job descriptions to ensure you’re connecting with every potential candidate. Stick to gender-neutral pronouns, and avoid gender-weighted terms like ‘wizard’ and ‘ninja’.
Removing identification details from resumes and applications ensures hiring managers are making judgments based on suitability, not preference. Avoid factors such as candidates’ names, age, or gender influencing your initial impression.
In interviews, ask candidates the same set of pre-determined questions. This assures that your judgments stay focused on the factors that directly impact performance.
While there are solutions to bridging the cloud skills gap, few are likely to have an immediate impact. In 12 months’ time, organizations will still be facing a lack of internal knowledge, experience, and resource on AWS and cloud technologies, preventing businesses from maximizing their cloud potential.
“Right now, there’s a lot of experience in using on-prem tools, either K8S or VM, but few people know how to create a production environment in the public cloud from permissions, to security, to observability,” explains Efi Merdler-Kravitz. “There are a lot of SaaS tools that integrate with the public cloud offerings, and the lack of knowledge in using the public cloud and these SaaS tools is likely to be amplified in the next year.”
However, while organizations will still be racing for the best AWS talent, a greater focus on internal training and upskilling opportunities will supply you with more cloud capability and longevity than ever before.
Sure, this time next year, the cloud skills gap will still be impacting the AWS community. But with organizations slowly recognizing their collective responsibility for solving the issue – and the individual roles they play within – the foundations are being laid to close the AWS skills gap in the near future.
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