AWS Launches Skills Center in Seattle, Strengthens Efforts to Provide 29 Million People with Free Cloud Training





A staff member helps prepare the AWS Skills Center for Thursday’s soft launch. (GeekWire Photo / Lisa Stiffler)

Amazon will open its first Amazon Web Services Skills Center in downtown Seattle on Thursday.

The 8,000-square-foot space is sort of an adult science center with three classrooms and small rooms with computers. The goal of the facility is to help demystify the cloud and make jobs using the technology more accessible. The site showcases potential career areas including gaming, robotics, sports, machine learning, smart home technology, and space. The center and its classes are free to the public.

The center hopes to reach the unemployed or unemployed, as well as people who are racially and ethnically diverse and with little or no experience in technology.

“It really is the beginning of the journey to the cloud, whether they’re going to take on a business or technical role,” said Maureen Lonergan, vice president of training and certification for AWS.

People visiting the center will be able to view the interactive displays and an AWS representative will be walking around the site to answer questions. The facility will hold in-person classes, starting with an introduction to computer technology, cloud practitioner essentials, and a cloud certification test preparation course. Classes last four hours, except for the Cloud Practitioner class, which is eight hours divided into two sessions. People can also watch remotely. The Skills Center will also host networking events with employers.

Maureen Lonergan, vice president of training and certification for AWS. (GeekWire Photo / Lisa Stiffler)

In addition to the center’s opening, Amazon announced additional efforts to provide free training:

  • Extension of AWS re/Start, the 12-week personalized program that provides training for entry-level cloud computing careers. By the end of this year, re/Start will be available in 95 cities in 38 countries, compared to 25 cities in 12 countries.
  • The launch of AWS Skill Builder, a suite of more than 500 on-demand, online technology and cloud courses. Skill Builder is available in more than 200 countries and territories and is offered in 16 languages.
  • Make online courses easier for US students to find by adding a link on Amazon.com.
  • Amazon plans to open additional Skills Centers in other cities and countries, and will add additional entry-level classes to the sites.

The training initiatives are part of Amazon’s December 2020 pledge to provide 29 million people with free cloud computing training by 2025. To date, about 6 million people have received training.

Lonergan did not give an exact dollar amount earmarked for the effort, but said the Seattle retail and cloud technology giant was spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” on the initiatives.

The company works with local organizations that are involved in communities they hope to reach through the training. Deena Pierott, founder of the iUrban Teen education program, joins an AWS-hosted panel Thursday announcing the new training opportunities.

Pierott’s multi-state program offers free STEM instruction to students who are underrepresented in technology, including encryption, cybersecurity, and other technical concerns. She is eager to partner with AWS and introduce the teens and young adults involved in iUrban Teens to new areas.

The AWS Skills Center has a display to demonstrate the use of cloud technology in robotics. (GeekWire Photo / Lisa Stiffler)

The Skills Center creates an opportunity to “build trust with these communities,” Pierott said, “and show them clearly what the opportunities are and where the future is headed.”

Pierott is hopeful that the AWS training will include instructors who are people of color so that trainees can see themselves in the roles. She was also concerned that the location would be inconvenient for some people. Lonergan said they are exploring transit options to reduce that barrier.

Other technology companies and nonprofit organizations in the Pacific Northwest also offer free training programs. Organizations such as Ada Developers Academy, Apprenti of the Washington Technology Industry Association, and Year Up offer intensive, no-cost training programs for technical careers. Microsoft provides instructions through the Accelerate program.

AWS Skills Center Details: Located on Terry Ave. 1915, Seattle, downtown is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. The facility will open to the public on November 22.




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