It’s almost cliché now to talk about digital transformation in the enterprise. What Global 2000 company is not launching digital transformation initiatives and considering a move to the cloud? It’s an existential challenge: Change or die.

As McKinsey pointed out in a major 2015 study that shook up C suites everywhere: “While the average corporate life span has been falling for more than half a century–Standard & Poor’s data show it was 61 years in 1958, 25 years in 1980, and just 18 years in 2011–digitization is placing unprecedented pressure on organizations to evolve. At the present rate, 75 percent of S&P 500 incumbents will be gone by 2027. That means managing your transition to a digitally driven business model isn’t just critical to beating competitors; it’s crucial to survival.”

SEE: Job description: Cloud engineer (Tech Pro Research)

As companies race to upgrade their digital bonafides, they’re faced with a growing shortage of cloud developers. As tractor and aluminum companies embrace the cloud, for example, they’re literally competing with Snap, Google, and Facebook for talent, as well as their peers and industry startups. Whereas two decades ago, the management mantra was to outsource all things not a core competency–like, um, IT–now there are a quarter million job openings for software developers in the US alone.

The Cloud Foundry Foundation, a global nonprofit alliance of large technology vendors, enterprise cloud customers, and developers, thinks it has an answer. The foundation recently launched what it claims to be the world’s largest initiative ever to train and certify cloud developers. I caught up recently with Abby Kearns, executive director of the foundation, to learn more.

The developer gap

TechRepublic: Why a Cloud Foundry training and certification offering?

Kearns: As more companies become software companies they run into a big challenge. Where are the developers that are able to develop and deploy cloud native applications? Last year we surveyed nearly 900 enterprise IT people around the world on the state of cloud skills in general. Most of the respondents (64%) said there already is, or will soon be, a serious shortage of skilled cloud developers. It’s already affecting their hiring.

SEE: Report: 95% of businesses have migrated critical applications to the cloud (TechRepublic)

What really surprised us, though, was how they were coping with this shortfall. Unlike a decade or two ago, when all the management rage was to outsource non-essential business capabilities and focus on “core competencies,” today companies increasingly want to train existing staff. More than 60% preferred to train their own current software teams’ engineers on cloud versus hiring new talent or outsourcing.

Cloudy differentiation

TechRepublic: I counted more than two dozen cloud developer training and certification offerings from some of the world’s largest tech firms and universities. Why is the Foundation launching its own program now?

Kearns: There is not nearly enough being done today to begin to close the gap in the shortage of skilled hands-on cloud developers. We have the unique advantage of being partners with three core constituencies who can help us better meet this challenge than other programs.

First, our Foundation members are the world’s largest technology and cloud companies–from Google and IBM to Pivotal and SAP, among many others. They help us create and maintain the content, as well as offer the content themselves to train and certify their developers and customers.

Second, half of our members are enterprises in the Global 2000, many of whom are well on their way in digital transformation journeys. They’re the demand side of the equation. You may not be aware of Express Scripts, but they’re a Fortune 100 healthcare company based in St. Louis with more than $100 billion in annual revenues. They want to train and certify more than 1,000 Cloud Foundry developers in the next year alone! Ford is supporting our initiative as well.

Our third advantage is the world-wide community of Cloud Foundry developers. A globally-accepted and vendor neutral certification standard like our Cloud Foundry Certified Developer program, backed by our global members, is a huge professional advantage when looking for a new job or upgrading an existing role.

Making it work

TechRepublic: How does the program work? Is it free?

Kearns: There are four basic components. The first, our free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), kicks off in May. Through our partnership with the Linux Foundation, which has trained and certified 800,000 people in more than 200 countries on open source software skills, we’ll offer a self-paced eLearning “Cloud Foundry for Developers” course online for $500 before any discounts. In-person training courses are available through licensed Cloud Foundry member companies. The performance-based certification will be an online exam, lasting about three hours, that costs $300.