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AWS skills centre to boost women and tech

Amazon Web Services has opened its first international skills centre in Cape Town, with an aim of empowering women, writes JASON BANNIER.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) opened its first international skills centre in Cape Town this week. The centre’s mission is to remove barriers of access to cloud skills training with dedicated, in-person cloud learning spaces designed to be interactive, and for anyone who is curious about cloud computing careers.

AWS is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud provider, with more than 200 fully-featured services available from data centres globally. It has previously set up only two skills centres, both in the USA – in Seattle and Arlington, Virginia.

The establishment of this facility marks the emergence of a significant resource for South African women in learning about cloud computing, and technology in general.

“We want to have women learning in any form and shape that they want, from home, virtually, or in the classroom, and we want to make sure that they understand that this is all about learning broadly”, said Tanuja Randery, AWS MD and VP for Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

She told Gadget at the opening: “The skills centre will enable women to walk in and feel that they’re not actually in some sort of class where they just write programs all day long. The venue is set out in a non-intimidating way, so that the physical space reduces the feelings of being uncomfortable or intimidated.

“The centre’s target age group is 18-36 which makes up approximately two thirds of the population”. 

However, the centre will also invite students below the age range to engage with the centre, which will encourage young females to involve themselves in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at earlier stages of their lives.

“Globally only one in three female graduates is a graduate in STEM,” said Randery.

Eight interactive and educational exhibits in the centre display how cloud supports space exploration, gaming, machine learning, cybersecurity, among other. 

Some of the exhibits include:

  • A foosball table with ball tracking capabilities for post-scoring replays.
  • A speech-to-text and text-to-speech translator.
  • A cybersecurity game in which users race against the clock to fix faults.
  • A sustainability game in which a digital frog called Aldo participates.
  • A racing simulator to demonstrate machine learning.
  • A global analytics display that visualises planes or satellites in real time.

Cutting the ribbon (from left): provincial minister Mireille Wenger, Rashika Ramlal, DG Higher Education and Training Dr. Nkosinathi Sish, AWS VP Tanuja Randery, Western Cape premier Alan Winde, AWS VP Maureen Lonergan, mayoral committee member James Vos.

According to the 2023 World Economic Forum (WEF) Future of Jobs report:

  • Organisations identify skills gaps (60% of respondents) and an inability to attract talent (53%) as the key barriers preventing industry transformation.
  • 60% of workers will require training before 2027, but only half have access to adequate training opportunities today.
  • Over 75% of organisations plan to adopt technologies such as big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence in the next five years – driving a surge in demand for individuals with these skills and creating approximately 2.6 million new jobs by 2027.

AWS has trained more than 100,000 people in South Africa on cloud skills since 2017, with free and paid training. The AWS skills centre in Cape Town is intended to help fulfill Amazon’s goal of providing free digital skills training to 29-million people globally by 2025.”At the end of the day, the skills centre is for everyone”, said Randery. However, she said, it holds the capacity to assume a pivotal role in advancing South African women and their integration with technology.

* View and register for classes at the AWS skills centre in Cape Town here.

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