Amazon on Thursday is opening the doors to its first Amazon Web Services Skills Center in downtown Seattle.
The 8,000 square feet space is a sort of science center for grownups with three classrooms and small rooms with computers available. The facility’s purpose is to help demystify the cloud and make jobs that use 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 unemployed or underemployed people as well as those who are racially and ethnically diverse and have little or no experience in the tech field.
“It’s really the start of the journey into cloud regardless of whether they go into a business-side role or tech role,” said Maureen Lonergan, vice president of training and certification for AWS.
People who visit the center can explore the interactive displays and there will be an AWS employee circulating the site to answer questions. The facility will hold in-person classes, starting with introduction to computer technology, cloud practitioner essentials, a test prep class for a cloud certification. The classes are four hours long, except the cloud practitioner class, which is eight hours split into two sessions. People will also be able to tune in remotely. The Skills Center will also host career networking events with employers.
In addition to opening the center, Amazon announced additional efforts to provide free training:
- Expanding AWS re/Start, its in-person,12-week 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, up from 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 offered in 16 languages.
- Making online courses easier to find for U.S. students 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 free cloud computing training to 29 million people by 2025. Some 6 million people have received training so far.
Lonergan did not provide an exact amount earmarked for the efforts, but said the Seattle-area retail and cloud tech giant was spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” on the initiatives.
The company is working with local organizations that engage with communities that they’re hoping to reach through the training. Deena Pierott, founder of the iUrban Teen education program, is participating in an AWS-hosted panel Thursday announcing the new training opportunities.
Pierott’s multi-state program offers free STEM instruction to students underrepresented in tech, covering areas including coding, cyber security and other tech focuses. She’s eager to partner with AWS and expose the teens and young adults associated with iUrban Teens to new areas.
The Skills Center creates a chance for “building trust with these communities,” Pierott said, “and having them clearly see 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, helping trainees see themselves in the roles. She also worried that the location will be inconvenient to some people. Lonergan said they are exploring transit options to reduce that barrier.
Other Pacific Northwest tech companies and nonprofits likewise offer free training programs. Organizations including Ada Developers Academy, Washington Technology Industry Association’s Apprenti, and Year Up provide intensive, no-cost training programs for tech careers. Microsoft offers instruction through its Accelerate program.
AWS Skills Center details: Located at 1915 Terry Ave., Seattle, the center is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The facility opens to the public on Nov. 22.