Designing the Future of Work and Employee Education at Amazon Web Services

Does the data show a disconnect between students, employers and educators?

The future of work is shaping the future of learning, forcing education and industry to work together in fresh, creative ways. 

Ken Eisner, Director of Worldwide Education Programs at Amazon Web Services, joined the Enrollment Growth University podcast to discuss how cloud computing is creating new upskilling opportunities for higher education and the future of work.

Top Future-of-Work Trends

According to a Gallup survey, more than 90% of industry executives said education was not effectively preparing students to hit the ground running on day one. So, Amazon developed AWS Educate to bridge that gap between education and industry.  

“From a work alignment perspective,” Ken said, “we believe that the future of work as the future of learning needs to be career and job aligned, and so we created an entire cloud competency framework.” 

Ken and his team looked internally to Amazon, its customers and partners, to define the most in-demand jobs in the cloud. They found 28 jobs, which fit into four main domains — the software development family, the cloud architect family, the data world, and operational roles. 

“And then we developed deeper alignment to education,” Ken said, “by creating the level one through three knowledge skills and abilities, as learning objectives for educators to embed into their curricula.”

Amazon rarely hires people with purely theoretical skills. That’s not just true for Amazon. It’s true for millions of active customers and partners around the world, who also require that hands-on experience. So real-world practical experiences, along with internships and apprenticeships, are vitally important in the future of work.

Amazon has 14 leadership principles that guide everything from hiring to strategic papers. One principle is a bias for action. Does education have a bias for action? Do we encourage students to move as fast as humanly possible, through two-way doors where decisions are reversible? Are we punishing them for taking that risk? Are we encouraging speed? Are we encouraging students to continuously experiment and invent on top of that experiment? Or are we locking them down to a right-or-wrong decision? 

Finally, the future of work demands lifelong learning. We know this, but often, we pay lip service to it. If we are marching students to terminal degrees in their early-to-mid twenties, and then they transfer from education to the workforce, are we truly enabling a fluid lifestyle in terms of learning behaviors?

“We need to think modularity in terms of education,” Ken said. “We need to think about stackable credentials and transfer pathways that are seamless throughout their lives.”

Collaborating to Provide Students with New Pathways to Cloud Careers

A bias for action has been lacking in our overall educational construct, but that’s beginning to change. Back in 2014, even before AWS Educate launched publicly, they joined the LA High Tech Coalition, a coalition of community colleges and high schools, creating career pathways in grades 9-14 into technology.

“We brought in customers,” Ken said, “and we had phenomenal leaders at Santa Monica College who took it upon themselves to move fast and move with such excitement towards their students’ goal.”

Amazon and its partners created a four-course and five-course cloud computing certificate sequence. The success of that program forced the team at AWS to think differently about the way they were approaching education.

“Our work with community colleges became central,” Ken told us. “They were willing to move fast. They were aligned with industry or industry outcomes. They were willing to move system-wide here. And they had transfer systems, a fluid pathway between high school and community college through dual enrollment and early college.”

Also, these community colleges served a diverse, inclusive community of low-income, minority students, and this helped widen the pipeline. It also helped Amazon look more like its customer base, which nearly every company wants to do.

Next Steps for Preparing for the Future of Work

Register at

It’s completely free for students, educators, and the institution. You get immediate access to various benefits such as content, professional development, the job board, and hands-on activities. You can also see what the world is becoming in the cloud. 

“Again,” Ken said, “this is a rapidly changing world, and we try to stay on top of some of the key things that will help guide some of the future of work.”

Collaborate with AWS at a larger scale.

You can help change current curricula to map into these careers.

AWS helps institutions modify existing content and curriculum so that you don’t have to introduce complete new degrees and courses. Instead, you can alter existing curriculum and existing degree paths to map to these exciting opportunities in the cloud and also to localize it for industry demand. 

“That’s part of the reason why we’ve partnered with local economic development organizations and government,” Ken said, “and part of the reason we also leverage EMSI and Burning Glass in some of the work that we do, to make sure that it’s localized.”

Don’t just join. Become an evangelist. 

Take the opportunity to become an AWS Educate Cloud Ambassador. There are a number of benefits you can access through that program. 

“We want to make sure that we’re recognizing these great innovators,” Ken said, “that are happening all around the world from the educational domain.”


This post is based on a podcast interview with Ken Eisner from Amazon Web Services. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.