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Are Technology Graduates Ready for the Cloud?

By John R. Wetsch, Ph.D. , Program Director for Cloud Computing, Wake Technical Community College

John R. Wetsch, Ph.D. , Program Director for Cloud Computing, Wake Technical Community College

Getting technology graduates ready for the workforce is a central tenet of technology education, especially when it comes to work as an administrator of systems, networks, or databases or to be a software developer. The obvious challenge is also to train students to learn how to keep on top of technology trends. Cloud computing has been such a trendsetter because it has impacted all the technology layers from infrastructure to applications.

Cloud adoption has resulted in technology deployment changes that directly affect businesses. These changes also create challenges. The challenges range from adopting a Cloud service that is offering an application that can support a business function to establishing and implementing a cloud service that are tools to support infrastructure and development. Migration to any cloud services come with changes in operations that differ from the traditional approaches of technology deployments. 

For example, in a deployment model, DevOps considerations are at the forefront. A cloud platform that supports development needs to support the tools for a complete system life cycle, and adequate computing resources must be applied. This may then appear to be the standard information technology considerations, but it differs in the Cloud because the consumer of the service will often be relying on a 3rd party to ensure that the service is operational.  It, therefore, requires the IT staff to be treated as customers when getting support from the Helpdesk. Think of a software developer who is having a technical issue with a platform service and is under the gun with a strict deadline. The availability of the cloud service becomes a problem, and the developer may no longer be able to rely on development resources available on their local laptop or desktop due to company policy.

"Employers looking for technology entry-level positions can increase their qualified job pool by looking at candidates with necessary cloud skills and then help these new employees pursue needed certifications in their adopted technology"

There are certainly tradeoffs while working with the Cloud, but overall, there are expectations that through cloud services that cost is reduced and availability is increased.  With all being good, where does that leave a student who is graduating and about to be entering a workforce and must work within a public, private, or hybrid cloud environment? Although the technical skills to be able to support networking, systems, and databases, and write programs is still on target computer technologists also need to be able to learn and use new tools to help their work in the Cloud. Working in the Cloud can then be complicated at times due to how the Cloud is implemented.

 A question that is raised when seeking out Cloud services is that a business may get locked in. A business choice in Cloud services may be an Azure, AWS, or Google approach, and these products offer their cloud certifications. This also affects the student because they see more adoption of the Cloud by employers and ask a pertinent question of - what is the best Cloud certification to pursue? For an employer looking for a particular certification will find that they may be losing many qualified technologists who may have a certification in a vendor Cloud environment that is different from what they adopted. Likewise, a student may have to decide to pursue a particular certification but not have enough information to support what is the best certification for them to help their job search.

An answer to this is to ensure cloud education provides a solid understanding as to what constitutes a cloud environment and to be able to work within multiple cloud services.  Consequently, when graduates have a solid working knowledge of Cloud environments, they can better interpret the adopted technology stack. Students can better adapt to changing Cloud environments reducing training costs. In essence, they can be better equipped to move into a Cloud environment and work with whatever service a business organization may have adopted, applying their technical skills within that environment. Employers looking for technology entry-level positions can increase their qualified job pool by looking at candidates with necessary cloud skills and then help these new employees pursue needed certifications in their adopted technology.  

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