Image: Amazon Web Services

To “democratize knowledge” and bridge the technical skills gap, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced it will invest “hundreds of millions” of dollars to support the future workforce with free cloud-computing skills training for 29 million people worldwide by 2025.

A variety of self-paced online courses will be offered free to anyone, in more than 200 countries and territories, with a focus on both developing technical skills, as well as upskilling.

During an event at the three-week virtual re:Invent 2020 conference, AWS Teresa Carlson, vice president, worldwide public sector, was joined by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), to discuss how AWS will build out more than 500 courses, interactive labs, and daylong training sessions.

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Carlson said that AWS will partner with WEF in the expansion of existing courses and programs. “Before the pandemic, we were shaping the world around the fourth industrial revolution, and for digital technology, we transformed the industry and the economy,” she said at the conference Friday. “And this has been a profound implication on how private industry and the public sector is going to interact with the stakeholders around the world.”

Schwab said that the pandemic emphasized deficiencies in technology evidenced by “many people who are left behind,” and are in dire need of upskilling. “The jobs which would be most in demand in the future, according to our research; No. 1, data analysts and scientists; No. 2, artificial intelligence specialists; No. 3, big data specialists; and No. 4, digital marketing and strategy specialists,” he said.

In 2020, AWS launched 50 new digital courses. The new program will feature more than 500 free on-demand online courses, interactive labs, virtual daylong training sessions, specific job-based skills, instructor-led webinars.

“[I]t is the duty and the obligation of companies to provide the necessary platforms [for new opportunities in education by combining digitalization with artificial intelligence], Schwab said, “And then I think everybody has it in his or her own hands to use those platforms to acquire the skills which are needed in the future.”

Designed to teach foundational cloud-computing skills through the most up-to-date tech for seasoned IT pros, courses are available in multiple languages. There are two resources available, both regularly updated: Training and Certification (for cloud fluency) and AWS Educate (for educators and students).

AWS will also expand the existing AWS re/Start program, a full-time, classroom-based program for those who are unemployed and underemployed, which AWS said connects more than 90% of grads with job-interview opportunities. It operates in 25 cities in 12 countries and AWS said it hopes to double the number in 2021.

To meet the needs of the always advancing tech universe, AWS will also add to its pilot training initiatives, such as a two-day “AWS Fiber Optic Fusion Splicing Certificate” program. Students accepted into this free program learn how to install and repair fiber optics and can participate in “a career networking session.”

Amazon will also continue its free accelerated Machine Learning University (MLU), which begins with three MLU foundational courses, and “Career Choice,” an upskilling program for Amazon employees, Upskilling 2025 (Amazon’s commitment to invest $700 million to train 100k US Amazon employees for high-skill jobs) and “Amazon Technical Academy” for non-tech Amazon employees to transition into software engineering careers.

Amazon employees “jumped on [the opportunities] because of that time that they had virtually,” Carlson said. “The key is accessibility to all.”

This article was updated on Dec. 14, 2020.