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Texas Schools Team with Amazon for Cloud Computing Jobs

A partnership with Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing division of the tech conglomerate, will prepare high school and college students for job opportunities as more companies migrate their systems to the cloud.

(TNS) — University of Houston student Valerie Smith sat in the front row of her classroom, drawing and labeling boxes with fluorescent colored pens. But what looks like doodles on a page in her notebook are in fact notes to help her remember some of the basics of cloud computing — a newer technological venture for many companies and Texas educational institutions.

Cloud computing, a practice that allows the storage, management and processing of data through remote servers on the Internet rather than a local or physical computer (think Google Drive), is becoming more and more common, and education leaders want to prepare students for related job opportunities as more companies migrate their systems to the cloud.

State officials and education and workforce leaders announced in September a partnership with Amazon’s IT service management company Amazon Web Services that will bring cloud computing education to K-12 schools and colleges across Texas. The program launched in the Dallas, Irving and Houston independent school districts, as well as at three four-year universities and 22 community colleges. The colleges in the Houston region include Prairie View A&M University, Houston Community College and Lone Star College.

The courses, via Amazon Web Services’ “AWS Educate,” will provide universities with the tools to train professors and support cloud computing learning for students by building computer and data related skills through additional curriculum and degree programs. Students ages 14 and up, will have access to a self-paced, no-cost curriculum as well as training and job boards.

Tony Moore, chief information officer at Prairie View, said it’s often difficult for university curriculum to keep up with the pace of technology.

“Most of the computer science courses that are taught are still teaching older curriculum,” Moore said. “But the 21st century workforce has changed.”

Cloud technology is the wave of the future, experts say, and companies are embracing the technology. In a report earlier this year, nonprofit Cloud Security Alliance said 69 percent of more than 200 organizations surveyed stated that they are migrating data for their management software applications to the cloud.

The worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 17.5 percent in 2019 to $214.3 billion, up from $182.4 billion in 2018, according to Gartner, a Connecticut-based research and advisory company. The firm’s research shows that more than a third of organizations see cloud investments as a top three investing priority, and that by the end of 2019, more than 30 percent of technology providers’ new software investments will shift from cloud-first to cloud-only.

High demand, short supply

There’s already a high demand, but short supply for employees with cloud computing skills, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

This year in Texas alone, there’s been a 62 percent increase in the number of jobs listing Amazon Web Services or AWS as a required skill, with more than 32,000 job openings, according to Wanted Analytics. But many of those jobs remain vacant.

Officails sees the demand as a benefit for students, but only if they’re prepared.

“Cloud computing has created sort of disruption. There’s not enough resources for companies to hire folks who have that experience. This sort of gives (students) an opportunity to learn cloud technology and be workforce ready when they graduate,” said Moore, who added that Prairie View A&M will use AWS to launch a certificate program at the historically black college in the hope of enhancing its current offerings and giving students hands-on-cloud experience.

Start training early

Texas Workforce Commissioner Julian Alvarez said the high demand for cloud computing-related skills is also inspiring high schools and colleges to adjust their curriculum to teach these subjects.

“The whole initiative is to align the education to the needs of the industry” with the hope of achieving the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s goal of equipping 25- to 34-year-olds with a post-secondary education or credentials that will lead to gainful employment or entry-level positions, he said.

Alvarez said the workforce commission and its partnerships are working to prepare students by beginning education as early as middle school. The commission has put out a $4 million grant for a pilot program that allows local workforce boards to help students get as much info as possible about potential career options and separately launched a coding camp for girls. Both initiatives have been to help ensure that women and people of color, groups often underrepresented in STEM, are given opportunities in an industry that is largely white and male-dominated.

HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado said the community college system launched an associate’s of applied science degree in partnership with Amazon this fall. The school is actively looking to develop a seamless pathway to a bachelor’s degree in computer and information sciences at the University of Houston-Downtown. and HCC officials are working to move the college’s own IT infrastructure to the cloud, he said.

“Tradition is changing,” Maldonado said.

Amazon at UH

Jose Martinez, assistant professor in computer information systems at UH, helped launch AWS programming about two and a half years ago in the school’s College of Technology.

Since then, Martinez, the only certified professor to teach AWS skills at UH, has developed a cloud computing track for the bachelor’s degree in computer information systems with at least three courses focused solely on aspects of cloud computing, including infrastructure and architecture, he said. UH also offers classes that allow IT professionals to earn certifications.

Although Martinez’ classes are based on the resources that AWS provides, he aims to help students explore training on other cloud providers like Microsoft and Google so they are well-versed and prepared for any system they might encounter in a future job.

Smith, a UH senior studying computer science, she was interested in learning AWS after working with two companies that had competing cloud computing programs. She wanted to learn all of the programs, and decided to take an Amazon Web Services course. She said the UH content was relevant to the technological demands she experienced at her job.

“It’s difficult sometimes to find courses that are staying up to date with technology, and this is one of the courses that pushes those boundaries and is pushing to stay up to date,” Smith said. “Companies are now using it and … we’re fortunate to be (learning it).”

Martinez has advised his students to bring up their hands-on cloud computing training during every job interview. “When the industry and hiring managers see that these students have cloud skills, they get excited because these are skills that aren’t necessarily out there in the market,” he said.

Developing more opportunities where students can get experience in addition to in-class and lab work is crucial, Martinez said. So on Friday, Nov. 22, UH will host its inaugural “Cloudathon.” Students from more than 30 universities around Texas and surrounding states are invited to put their cloud computing knowledge to the test in a one-day competition. The top three student teams will win cash prizes.

Martinez said he hopes the competition will provide students with an experience they can list on their resumes and that preparation for the advent of the cloud will only expand.

“We need to embrace this,” Martinez said.

©2019 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.