Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Jarred Gaines was working as director of fitness at a gym in the Greater Boston area and was in the process of opening his own fitness center. The day before the grand opening, he had to pull the plug on the entire process, because of the pandemic.

A Black man wearing a button up shirt smiles at the camera.
Jarred Gaines, AWS re/Start student.

"To have everything swept out from under my feet, that was hard," said Gaines. "After that, I searched online and found Per Scholas. I had never heard of it, but I knew about the AWS Cloud.”

Per Scholas, is a nonprofit in the northeast United States that has helped more than 10,000 individuals build technology careers—and is one of three organizations Amazon Web Services (AWS) is collaborating with to launch its AWS re/Start cloud computing training program this fall.

No part of the world has escaped the economic and employment impact of COVID-19. In the US, while unemployment continues to drop from a peak of 14.7% in April 2020, there remain 12.6 million unemployed across the U.S. (7.9%), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of September 2020.

At the same time, AWS customers and partners around the world tell us that there are simply not enough qualified applicants to meet the growing demand for trained cloud talent. A survey from 451 Research found that 90% of IT decision makers reported skills shortages in cloud-related disciplines.[1] The scarcity of highly experienced cloud talent is a major concern for many organizations, but AWS saw this need as an opportunity to re-invent how talent is cultivated, trained, and retained.

Together, AWS re/Start and Per Scholas are building an inclusive and diverse pipeline of new cloud talent focused on connecting our graduates to new career opportunities.
Plinio Ayala - President and CEO of Per Scholas

The need for entry level cloud talent
This is where AWS re/Start comes in. The program began in 2017 with the first cohort in London, UK—created because we heard from customers that they needed help finding skilled entry-level cloud talent. Infinity Works, one of the UK’s leading digital transformation and engineering consultancies, has hired AWS re/Start graduates in the UK. "AWS re/Start is a great way of helping to increase diversity and inclusion within the industry, and it's a chance to get good, enthusiastic engineers into our workforce," said Principal Consultant Hiren Joshi (he/him). "It's a great way to give opportunities to people who wouldn't ordinarily come into the industry."

AWS re/Start aims to build a diverse, global pipeline of entry-level trained talent, and is designed to support people who are unemployed or underemployed, and who have little technology experience, for careers in cloud computing. There is no cost for learners; AWS re/Start is committed to helping individuals overcome financial barriers to beginning a career in the cloud.

A Zoom call, showing more than a dozen individuals participating in AWS re/Start cloud education.
Fall 2020 AWS re/Start cohort in Martinsville, Virginia.

Graduates receive real-world, scenario-based training in Linux, Python, networking, security, and relational database skills. They also get guidance to strengthen their communication, resume, and interviewing skills. The program prepares and covers the cost for participants to take the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Certification exam, validating their cloud skills with an industry-recognized credential.

Five new U.S. cohorts
This month, AWS re/Start is launching in five new cities across the U.S.—New York City and Newark, New Jersey with collaborating organization, Per Scholas; New College Institute in Martinsville, Virginia; and Year Up in San Jose and San Francisco, California. These join existing cohorts in Boston and Washington, D.C. from Per Scholas. Each organization helps to prepare unemployed and underemployed individuals for entry-level cloud roles.

"The industry demand for cloud adoption is far outpacing the number of new, cloud-savvy workers, leaving organizations struggling to find and hire the talent needed to implement cloud services," said Tejas Vashi, AWS re/Start Global Team Lead. "To overcome this systematic supply versus demand situation, cloud talent must be cultivated from non-traditional sources. AWS re/Start brings net-new talent into the cloud ecosystem by skilling unemployed and underemployed individuals with little technology background and preparing them to launch a cloud career."

Upon completion of the program, graduates are prepared for entry-level, front-line cloud roles including SysOps Support Specialist, Site Reliability support, or related front-line customer support and help desk oriented roles.

“Before joining the AWS program, I was working for Wake Forest University as the coordinator of fan experience and sales. I joined the AWS re/Start program because I saw a great opportunity to learn about cloud computing," said Harrison Jessup, AWS re/Start learner from the New College Institute cohort. "Technology is growing every day and this program gave me the opportunity to learn and grow too. What interests me about cloud computing is that it can be applied to nearly any situation you can think of. I’m just glad to be a part of his class and the program."

“After being eliminated from my position as a security officer because of a brief illness, I could not find a new position so I just stayed at home because of the COVID-19 situation," said Essie Hollandsworth, AWS re/Start learner. "I joined AWS re/Start because I thought that the opportunity was too good to pass up and the chance to learn something new would be a great way to get into a field that I had always thought about. I love new challenges and have always wanted to learn about the technology industry because of the many opportunities and possibilities.”

A Zoom call, showing more than a dozen individuals participating in AWS re/Start cloud education.
Fall 2020 Year Up cohort in San Francisco and San Jose.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission, almost 400,000 Virginians are currently unemployed due to COVID-19. In addition, according to labor market data from July 2019 to June 2020, Virginia has the third largest number of cloud related job postings in the U.S. with almost 300,000 cloud related jobs posted.

This is the third cohort Per Scholas has run in collaboration with AWS. Per Scholas was named one of the most effective workforce programs in the country by the White House My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

“Our goals focus on fostering a more equitable and diverse tech sector and creating the opportunity for our graduates to build a foundation for future sustainability and growth. This aligns directly with the AWS re/Start mission and we are excited to collaborate,” said Plinio Ayala, President and CEO of Per Scholas. "Together, AWS re/Start and Per Scholas are building an inclusive and diverse pipeline of new cloud talent focused on connecting our graduates to new career opportunities."

"Before joining the AWS re/Start program offered by Per Scholas, I was a Project Manager and Security Analyst in the music publishing industry. When the pandemic hit, I was laid off. During these devastating times, I made a commitment to improve my life. Being part of the community of first-generation immigrant families, I, too, have dreamt of the opportunity to help my family," said Chantel Agyeman, a learner in the Per Scholas Washington D.C./New Jersey program. "I've put a lot of time and effort in college, hoping it would point me in the right direction. Unfortunately, it was not enough to take me all the way. I know that my work ethic and dedication, coupled with the AWS re/Start program, will enable me to make my dreams of becoming an international Cyber Security specialist come true."

Like Per Scholas, Year Up is committed to equip its participants with skills to strengthen their situations. Participants in the Year Up program receive an additional six months of skills training prior to selecting their industry-specific path, such as AWS Cloud via AWS re/Start.

A Zoom call, showing more than a dozen individuals participating in AWS re/Start cloud education.
Fall 2020 Per Scholas cohort in Washington D.C.

“Previously, I was working for my cousin at her café full-time for four years, on and off. I joined because three friends who are Year Up alumni said they got a lot out the program, including life lessons," said Kelly Bach, a learner from San Francisco in the Year Up AWS re/Start program. "To me, this is the opportunity to jump into technology and I am excited. Our instructor encouraged female-identified students to step up, as the cloud computing industry needs more female-identified leaders. I want to be one of those people who breaks the norm. Cloud computing is the future. It’s what we are going to be doing in the future."

Impacting lives through skills transformation
"AWS re/Start is more than a cloud skills training program. The program is focused on helping these individuals build the technical skills they need to meet the hiring bar for companies that need cloud expertise," said Vashi. "By partnering with our collaborating organizations, we are helping individuals move into lucrative careers in the cloud."

AWS re/Start graduates have been hired at leading companies including, Sage, Direct Line, The Funding Circle, Zopa, Equal Experts, Cloudreach, Splunk, Rackspace, Rebura, KPMG, Centrica Hive, Scape, Onfido, Daemon Solutions, Bytes, Financial Times, Cancer Research UK, Infinity Works, Dunelm, Sony PlayStation, PA Consulting, and Sainsbury's.

After graduating from the Per Scholas AWS re/Start program this summer, Gaines was hired by IDBS Software Solutions (part of the Danaher Corporation family). "AWS rebuilt my confidence. I took a major hit because of COVID, but having a career in cloud computing really opened a whole new journey for me, and the confidence to do it."