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Google Cloud is embarking on a push to help more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue careers in cloud with the help of global non-profit youth employability programme provider Generation.
The initiative, known as the Katalyst programme, is being spearheaded by Richard Regan, head of partner engineering for UK and Ireland at Google Cloud, and is geared towards making a career in cloud accessible to individuals who typically find themselves under-represented in the field of tech.
The programme has been a year in the making, with the idea coming to Regan in the wake of a meeting of chief technology officers (CTOs) during a Google Cloud Partner network event, where the industry-wide shortage of people with cloud skills dominated discussions.
Attendees talked about how difficult they were finding it to recruit, train and keep hold of their cloud talent, and the knock-on impact this was having on their ability to move forward on projects that would allow them to migrate more of their applications and workloads off-premise, Regan told Computer Weekly.
From here, Regan hit on the idea of creating a cloud training programme that would lower the barriers to entry for under-represented groups, while also providing opportunities for them to specialise in Google Cloud tech.
“[It could be] nothing short of life-changing for some when you look at the salaries commanded by cloud professionals, which is due to the lack of supply,” he said.
The experiences of the CTOs who attended the event align with observations from the likes of market watcher Gartner, which have spoken out previously about the damaging impact the cloud skills shortage is likely to have on the ability of enterprises to deliver on their digital transformation plans in the years to come.
On this point, Gartner published a forecast in 2020 that said the shortage of techies with skills and experience in working on public cloud and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) deployments will create delays of two years or more for enterprises looking to migrate their on-premise workloads.
“We wanted to do something locally, to help grow the pool of available skilled individuals, ideally tapping into under-represented groups,” added Regan.
To help get the project off the ground in a speedy way, Google enlisted the help of skills charity Generation UK, which specialises in providing education and training to help people find work in industries that might typically be off-limits or inaccessible to them.
“The programme is aimed at participants representing a balance of genders, ethnic minority communities, young people who are furthest away from the labour market through no fault of their own, individuals who are not in education, employment or training for more than six months, or those with a mental or physical challenge, who’ve not had a chance to develop their skills,” said Regan.
A pilot programme, which lasts 12 weeks, is due to run in the summer, and will offer participants access to a mix of technical training and education on the soft skills they need to succeed in the field of tech, as well as access to employment opportunities within the Google Cloud Partner network.
Regan confirmed there would be 25 participants in the pilot programme, but – in time – the programme would be opened up to hundreds of students, with tentative plans in place to potentially expand it to the other overseas territories that Google Cloud operates in.
“There is a lot of demand already, but we want to be measured [during the pilot programme] so we don’t scale too quickly,” he added.
Over the 12 weeks, participants will follow the course curriculum needed to secure a Google Cloud Digital Leader certification. They will also do a chunk of the training needed to achieve a Google Cloud Associate Engineer certification, with the idea being that they will complete that within six months of starting work at a Google Cloud Partner organisation.
Stuart Wilson, research director of European partnering ecosystems at IT market watcher IDC, said investments in cloud training programmes that champion inclusivity were a “necessity” to build a consistent pipeline of tech talent to support the cloud migration plans of enterprises.
“Tackling barriers to employment for under-represented and under-privileged individuals is front of mind for every organisation right now. In the technology world, which is reliant on specialist skills that we know are in high demand, it’s now obvious how critical training programmes are to open up avenues for new talent,” said Wilson.
“Initiatives like Project Katalyst are a step in the right direction, as they create new pathways and possibilities for wider communities to contribute to these growth industries, through bridging that skills gap.”