Education and Skills

How to develop talent for the digital economy

Demand for cloud-skilled talent is increasing in the digital economy. Image: Alex Kotliarskyi, Unsplash

Teresa Carlson
President, Chief Growth Officer, Splunk Inc.
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Companies should look for skills, creativity and passion.
  • The digital economy will require new talent.
  • Over the past year, 83,000 cloud jobs were posted in the Los Angeles area.

The ubiquity of always-on, high performance infrastructure is fueling the rapid pace of innovation. Now more than ever, government and private companies can take advantage of affordable and scalable systems to test new ideas, evolve more quickly to meet the needs of their citizens and customers, and operate more securely. And yet, many institutions have not started on their digital journey because they lack a workforce with the advanced skills they need to drive transformational change.

In recent months, I have had the opportunity to meet with a diverse collection of elected officials and public sector leaders from around the globe. Some have been with leaders from young, dynamic, and fast-developing nations, others from nations that have been the traditional catalysts for global growth for the last five generations.

Each leader has asked me a similar question: How can they better serve their citizens, grow their economies, and quickly adapt to global threats and changes through technology? The answer starts, as most answers do, with tapping the skills, creativity, and passion of their citizens.

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Equipping a nation’s workforce with technical skills, and fostering a culture of continuous innovation are foundational ingredients that can help governments – and all public sector organizations – serve their missions, achieve real results for those they serve, and build a better world.

The good news is that there are concrete steps that leaders can take to build this foundation for growth and pave the way for innovation.

cloud computing recruitment technology digital economy
Recruitment sources for tech roles worldwide 2019 Image: Mercer, Mettl, Statista

Inspiring the next generation

As the demand for cloud-skilled talent expands, so does the need for communities to develop effective workforce development pipelines that drive economic growth and opportunity. Working together with private industry, government leaders can work backwards from the needs of employers to build new educational models that closely align curricula to the skills that firms identify as the most critical.

This approach is playing out in the one of the largest, most diverse, and dynamic cities in the world: Los Angeles, California. With over 83,000 cloud jobs posted in the Los Angeles area in the last twelve months, the demand for cloud skills crosses all industries including entertainment, aerospace, biotechnology, and education, just to name a few.

The California Cloud Workforce Project (CA Cloud), a consortium of 19 LA County community colleges and their sister high schools, worked with the AWS Educate program to create a groundbreaking Cloud Computing Certificate. CA Cloud is at the front line of a public-private partnership around cloud workforce development in creating and delivering industry-aligned curriculum, hands-on practice in the cloud, industry-recognized credentials, and internships and full-time opportunities in collaboration with local employers.

The diverse industries in the LA area are all poised to use the cloud to support the next wave of innovation and growth. It is just one model that is being replicated around the world to identify, skill, and scale the generation of workers.

Fostering culture change to drive more opportunities

Building a culture that embraces innovation starts with giving your teams the opportunities to build technical skills and to put those skills to use. The two go hand-in-hand.

Cloud computing is a powerful tool in this building effort, because unlike traditional models of IT, cloud allows organizations to fail fast, experiment often, and scale proven results. Instead of asking “How much will this cost?” leaders can spend their time asking, “How can I make this better?”

For example, Digital Divide Data (DDD), a nonprofit social enterprise creating sustainable tech jobs for global youth, launched the first-of-its-kind AWS Cloud Academy in Kenya to train, certify, and employ underserved youth in cloud computing as a stepping-stone to more advanced IT careers. The first cohort was comprised of 30 high school graduates from Kibera in Nairobi. Prior to joining DDD, many of these youth had never even used a computer—and certainly had never deployed complex solutions. After an intensive six-month training and internship program, 100% of the participants passed the AWS SysOps certification test on the first attempt. The combination of training and work experience propels DDD graduates to earn higher income, gain economic security, and ultimately, create better futures for themselves and their families.

Already, leaders who are embracing a culture change are transforming global enterprises such as the National Football League, changing the way we travel with Lyft, predicting natural disasters in Indonesia, and so much more.

cloud computing growth talent digital economy
Cloud intrastructure market revenue worldwide 2016-2019 Image: Canalys, Statista

Creating a better world with a pioneering and diverse culture

From exploring space to curing diseases to finding missing children, leaders are embracing the advantages of cloud computing and other advanced technologies to transform old models and better serve their missions.

The blueprint exists for other leaders to begin their transformations. Building a strong foundation through skills development and cultivating a highly adaptive culture can set a community of any size or background on the path to economic growth.

We are at the crossroads of the most exciting transformation of our lifetime.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Education and SkillsForum InstitutionalFourth Industrial Revolution
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