4 Ways Unique Partnerships are Helping Build the Next Generation Tech Workforce

By Valerie Singer, World Economic Forum

  • Tech workforce challenges are creating barriers to innovation for public and private sector organizations.
  • Innovative partnerships can help close the technical skills gap and build better pathways to in-demand jobs.
  • We explore four ways to unlock career opportunities and address the global skills gap.

Government, education, and virtually every industry face tech workforce challenges that can lead to barriers preventing public and private sector organizations from expanding and building operational efficiencies. Intentional partnerships can help accelerate solutions that prepare learners with the skills needed to meet the demands of today’s technological advances, as well as the future of work.

In a 2022 global Gallup study of 30,000 workers and 9,300 employers in 19 countries, advanced digital skills were highly valued. Companies that employ advanced digital workers – such as cloud engineers and software developers – are about 50% more likely to report innovating in the past two years than companies that only use basic digital technologies.

Additionally, 66% of companies that run some or most of their business in the cloud reported innovating products or services in the past two years, a rate five times higher than companies that do not currently use the cloud.

As digital transformation continues to drive business growth and improve how we live, work, and learn, organizations need skilled technical talent to stay competitive. Developing that talent and ensuring training is aligned to in-demand skills will take collaborative and intentional ingenuity that can only be accomplished when education, industry, and government work together.

  1. Collaborating with government to increase access to tech skills training

Agile and equitable upskilling and reskilling efforts are critical and can unlock opportunities for early career talent to enter the tech workforce and enable current workers to build new careers. Collaborating with government leaders enables training programmes to scale across countries, regions, and states to reach vast amounts of learners.

In Kenya, the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Authority, a state corporation under the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are creating new opportunities for Kenyan workers and expanding the funnel of local talent so businesses can thrive. ICT and AWS will upskill 10,000 students across ten universities using AWS Academy through this collaboration.

Many states are interested in rapidly growing their technology sector in the US. Their willingness to move fast to meet the demand creates a strong foundation to develop statewide training and education initiatives. Working closely with leaders to understand their workforce development needs, AWS offers a range of education programmes to help communities solve their skills gaps and build economic prosperity. AWS has launched more than 13 statewide initiatives between education systems, government agencies, policy leaders, economic development organizations, and employers to develop opportunities for thousands of residents to take advantage of various pathways to cloud jobs.

  1. Bridging the skills gap in curriculum

A culture of lifelong learning is the foundation for innovation and is driven both by formal education and other forms of training. When individuals embrace this approach, the idea that learning should end at some point is replaced with a lifelong learning mindset where the exploration of certifications, stackable credentials, real-world training programmes, and more are important. However, as individuals adopt new ways of learning over the course of their careers and lifetimes, education institutions need to adapt quickly to the fast-changing world we live in today. Education in partnership with industry can help better prepare learners for a digital economy through curriculum modernization.

The Regional Ministry of Education and Sports under Junta de Andalucía, the regional government of Andalusia in Spain, wanted to update its higher vocational IT degree for public education to match the real-world requirements of employers. In September 2021, the governing body launched a new cloud computing curriculum as part of its higher vocational IT degree training – the first regional agreement of its kind in Spain. Junta de Andalucía aligned its curriculum with content from AWS Education Programs and trained over 700 educators across Andalusia in cloud computing. The governing body plans to introduce 6,000 students across 105 schools to the curriculum by 2023.

  1. Building pathways to tech careers

The demand for skilled technical talent doesn’t just impact tech-focused enterprises. Organizations across various sectors and industries must fill roles in software development, cloud architecture, data science, cyber security, cloud support engineers, and more. Employers have an important role in this effort by advising, creating in-roads to open positions, and investing in the future workforce to ensure learners have the right skills to fill in-demand jobs.

In March 2023, AWS and Siemens started collaborating on tech apprenticeships in Germany. Siemens integrated cloud curriculum, hands-on labs, and gamified learning with AWS Skill Builder and AWS Cloud Quest into Siemens IT apprenticeships. This collaboration will also result in apprenticeships for two cloud data centre roles in Frankfurt, further expanding hands-on opportunities for learners and creating a funnel of career-ready talent for local companies.

  1. Accelerating learning through work-based skills training

Integrating skills-based learning into traditional education pathways allows learners to obtain credentials with practical skills that are highly relevant to employers. AWS powers Cloud Innovation Centers (CICs) across the world that are normally based at higher education institutions that enable students to engage in project-based learning. Learners develop and apply skills to have a direct impact on how public sector organizations operate and serve the community.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) CIC uses a practical approach to teaching computer science and technical skills by applying student innovation and a full range of cloud services to real-world problems in a process the university calls work-integrated learning. Students accepted into the UBC CIC co-op program spend four to eight months working on a project that impacts health, the environment, education, and other public interest issues.

These collaborative initiatives unite leaders around a common goal: addressing the global skills gap at scale. In each of these engagements, education institutions experienced a simplified process to modernize their tech curriculum, educators were equipped to start teaching new tech concepts better aligned to in-demand jobs, and learners gained hands-on experience to strengthen the tech talent pipeline for employers.

When we approach the global skills gap by addressing perspectives from education, government, and industry, we can create a multi-dimensional solution through various partnerships that meet unique needs.

A Senior and Formerly Unhoused Mechanic Tries Out Autonomous Driving

By Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving

By all accounts, Clayton, a Phoenix man in his 70s, is flourishing. He resides in a close-knit, affordable housing community called Acacia Heights that hosts game nights and potlucks once a month to bring its residents closer together. He serves as a volunteer on the board of nonprofit Circle the City that provides life-saving healthcare to unhoused individuals.

“I feel grateful for every day I’m allowed to wake up,” Clayton says.

It’s hard to imagine that not too long ago, Clayton was also unhoused and a client of Circle the City. Circle the City empowered him to find his home at Acacia Heights through another nonprofit, Foundation for Senior Living (FSL), which provides assistance to Phoenix seniors and people with disabilities and access to affordable housing.

“The residents here are really good at looking after each other,” Clayton says, adding that he loves the community’s amenities like a common room, computer lab, and easy access to downtown Phoenix. “It’s a really, really good feeling to me.”

In contrast to when he was unhoused, Clayton now has many community connections, and volunteering is especially meaningful to him.

“It’s my way of giving back,” Clayton explains.

Clayton, who once worked as an auto mechanic (who once put a totally torn-apart engine back together in two hours and 10 minutes!) believes in a lifelong commitment to trying new things. He put that into action recently when he caught a Waymo One ride to Circle the City in an autonomously driven vehicle.

“People said, ‘You can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Don’t tell me I can’t. That’s not in my book.’”

Tami Bohannon, CEO of Foundation for Senior Living, which manages Acacia Heights, says FSL is partnering with Waymo to explore how the technology could help residents like Clayton, many of whom do not drive.

“The partnership with Waymo allows FSL participants to stay connected to the larger community,” Tami emphasizes.

Waymo’s autonomous driving technology is designed to be conscientious, constantly vigilant, follow road rules, and make safe driving decisions. Not only could the technology offer seniors who can no longer drive an on-demand safe transportation option, it also could help seniors with limited mobility get the final miles from their homes to public transportation stations by providing one possible solution to the “last mile problem.” Waymo has worked with Phoenix’s public transit system on piloting models for how the technology could close transit gaps.

Tami says the population that FSL serves is expanding, and so will the need for assistance and tools that help people live independently.

“We have a silver tsunami coming. By 2030, there will be 42 million seniors, people over the age of 65 in the United States,” Tami explains. “I do know 90% of seniors tell us they want to live independently.”

Over the last 30 years, FSL has developed 25 affordable apartment communities for seniors and people with disabilities in Phoenix, including Acacia Heights.

Tami says she believes that technology like Waymo’s could be an extension of the services FSL provides already.

“When I think of Waymo’s partnership with FSL, it is actually an extension of our caregiving resources,” Tami says. “If a senior has the ability to use an app, call a Waymo, and take a ride to go to the doctor, an exercise class, or to visit a friend or family member… it’s kind of a new way to look at caregiving.”

Tami says the partnership reflects FSL’s solutions-focused, innovative values.

“Whether that solution is an autonomous car that picks up one of our participants or residents, or we would love to explore robotics and be able to have some form of robotics help us with our caregiving duties, whether it’s in someone’s home or in one of our centers, we’re all about embracing innovation and looking at the world differently.”

Tami says she realized some people might be afraid of autonomous driving technology like Waymo’s, but that life is much richer when people don’t let fear stand in the way of new ways of doing things.

“Think about how your life would be different if you had this kind of technology, this innovative technology available to you,” Tami urges, adding that Clayton is a great example of someone trying new things. “We can’t let fear drive us, but we can let an autonomous car drive us.”

Kodiak Robotics will Haul Freight Autonomously for Tyson Foods

By Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch

Autonomous trucking startup Kodiak Robotics is partnering with truckload carrier C.R. England to autonomously ship Tyson Foods products between Dallas and San Antonio, Texas.

A human safety operator will be present in the one dedicated truck Kodiak is allocating to this pilot. Deliveries will begin this month, according to the company.

The pilot program is the latest in Kodiak’s growing string of paid partnerships with major carriers, and it further demonstrates the startup’s potential path to sustainability and even profitability once it removes the human safety driver from operations.

A spokesperson for Kodiak said the company aims to remove the safety operator within the next couple of years.

The pilot with Tyson will see Kodiak hauling three to five loads per week. C.R. England will have one of its human drivers bring a refrigerated trailer pre-loaded with Tyson protein products to Kodiak’s facility in Lancaster, just outside of Dallas. Then one of Kodiak’s autonomous trucks will deliver the load to a C.R. England drop yard in San Antonio. From there, a C.R. England truck and driver will deliver the trailer to its final destination in Laredo.

Kodiak says the partnership is not only emblematic of how human-driven trucks and autonomous trucks can work together, but it also provides a use case for autonomy as a solution for moving perishable products in a timely manner.

“One of the categories where C.R. England is a leader is in perishable foods, which require the safest, most reliable, on-time delivery possible,” said Chad England, CEO of C.R. England, in a statement. “Kodiak’s proven performance and commitment to customer success makes it a great partner to help us introduce autonomous service into our operations.”

As part of the partnership, C.R. England is also joining Kodiak’s Partner Development Program, which is Kodiak’s way of working with carriers to help establish autonomous freight operations and, hopefully, integrate Kodiak’s self-driving system into their fleet.

“Our intent is to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for customers, whether they need their freight moved autonomously or not,” said England.

Other companies that are part of this development program include 10 Roads Express, Werner Enterprises and U.S. Xpress. Each of those partnerships involved a short freight pilot that offered learnings into what autonomous trucking operations could look like if adopted at scale.

“For example, with some of them, we are currently deciding on the next lane that we’ll haul freight with them,” Michael Wiesinger, VP of commercialization at Kodiak, told TechCrunch. “Some of them say they want to have longer lanes. We recently announced Dallas to Atlanta and we will do more with that, so now it’s just about us figuring out together when is the right time to start those freight operations again. And how does it work from our capacity perspective, because we also have limited capacity.”

All up, Kodiak has about 30 trucks in its fleet doing more than 50 loads per week, all of which are paid commercial deliveries. Kodiak has maintained ongoing freight pilots with Ceva Logistics, Ikea and Forward Air, as well as a few other companies that the startup hasn’t yet announced publicly, according to Wiesinger.

Restaffing The Self-Driving Space: Moving Past Traditional Recruitment

By Syed Talha Masood, Forbes Technology Council

Self-driving cars were science fiction a few years ago, but most technologically advanced nations now have autonomous automobiles—making this once-impossible fantasy a reality.

Self-driving cars have conquered the automotive sector with significant expenditures and achievements but still need to scale due to many problems. The most prominent issue that stands out is rapid technological advancement and expertise.

The self-driving space works by the motto of autonomy, so why not recruit with the same vision and scale as the talent cloud by tapping into a large talent pool to be faster in the market?

Where The Self-Driving Space Is Heading

The self-driving space has been driven by various factors, including technological advancements, increased investment and changing consumer attitudes. As the industry continues to mature, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about transportation and mobility.

Here are some trends surrounding critical investments, consumer behavior and advancement when it comes to the rise of the autonomous vehicle industry.

  • 26% of consumers have a favorable view of self-driving vehicles after Covid-19.
  • The global autonomous vehicle industry is expanding by 16% annually.
  • As of 2020, companies had spent roughly $16 billion on automated vehicles.
  • Self-driving cars could reduce driving fatalities by 94%.

The Challenges Of Scaling And Talent Gap In The Self-Driving Space

Several tech and automobile organizations are working on their versions of autonomous driving technology to roll it out globally. However, expansion may need to accelerate because of a need for more skills to access local data. In short, there is space for more advancement and technology in the self-driving area that awaits a new wave of technology.

There is currently no fully autonomous car on the market produced by a commercial entity. However, given AI’s reliance on massive data, relocating will be easier than starting from scratch. All in all, the only solution for the scalability of the self-driving space is a talent pool that innovates.

The automotive sector is predicted to face a global shortage of 2.3 million skilled workers by 2025 and 4.3 million by 2030. The skills that are in high demand in the self-driving space include robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), software engineering, electrical and mechanical engineering, data analysis, cybersecurity and regulatory compliance

The self-driving industry is relatively new and highly competitive. As a result, the collection of people with experience in this field still needs to grow. This makes finding qualified candidates with the necessary skills and expertise to work on these complex systems time-consuming and challenging.

Moreover, it is highly competitive, with many companies vying for a limited pool of available talent. The competition drives up salaries and benefits, making it challenging for smaller companies to attract and retain top talent. Additionally, 80% of employers say they are having difficulty finding skilled workers, and 52% of recruiters say they are most interested in candidates with a STEM degree.

Successfully Transitioning To And Leveraging The Talent Cloud

The demand for new skills and expertise is increasing as the automotive industry evolves, which could make tapping into the talent cloud challenging. However, leveraging the talent cloud and keeping up with the pace of rapidly changing technology may seem more complicated than it is.

Here are some critical steps to ensure a smooth transition.

  • Identify the skills and expertise needed to meet the company’s goals and objectives instead of just assessing the workforce. This can help AV makers target their talent acquisition efforts and attract the right talent from the talent cloud.
  • Partnering with educational institutions and offering internships, apprenticeships or other training programs can help the AV industry build a pipeline of skilled and qualified talent.
  • The talent cloud offers access to a vast talent pool. Leverage machine learning and AI-powered recruitment platforms to source and assess candidates.
  • Consider offering flexible work arrangements such as remote work options, flexible hours or job-sharing. This can help attract top talent that values flexibility and work-life balance.
  • AV industries must invest in their employees’ constant learning and development. Offer training, mentoring and coaching opportunities to help employees develop new skills and grow in their careers.
  • Foster a culture of innovation where employees are encouraged to take risks, experiment and explore new ideas.
  • Continuously monitor and assess the performance of their new hires from the talent cloud. It will help them identify areas for improvement and make any necessary adjustments to their talent management practices.

The self-driving space is heading toward significant growth, increased investment, changing consumer attitudes and technological advancements. However, the industry faces scaling challenges due to the requirement for more talent with the necessary expertise.

By adopting a holistic workforce strategy, the self-driving space can overcome these challenges and smoothly transition into the talent cloud, enabling it to innovate and scale faster in the market. The future of self-driving technology is bright, and with the right talent and expertise, we can revolutionize how we think about transportation and mobility.

Autonomous Cars Could Help Bring Millions of People with Disabilities into the Workforce, Reduce Federal Spending

By Matt Gonzales, SHRM

Traversing a big city like Washington, D.C., can be difficult for people with disabilities—just ask Amy Scherer.

Scherer, a senior staff attorney with the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), uses a wheelchair and has some visual limitations that prevent her from driving. While the District of Columbia has wheelchair-accessible cabs, their availability has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Sometimes I have no choice but to work remotely simply because of transportation barriers, even though I live in a large, urban city,” she said. “I have had to miss both professional and personal engagements simply because the meeting location was not on the Metro line, and there were no available wheelchair-accessible cabs at that time. I literally had no other options.”

A lack of reliable transportation makes getting to and from work challenging for employees with disabilities. It has also served as a significant barrier to employment for many of them, contributing to an unemployment rate double that of individuals without disabilities.

However, a recent report suggested that the widespread availability of autonomous vehicles (AVs) could alleviate this ongoing issue, boost employment for people with disabilities and strengthen the broader economy.

The study, by the National Disability Institute (NDI), revealed that widely available, reliable and affordable self-driving cars would bring 9.2 million more workers into the workforce. This includes 4.4 million direct jobs for individuals with a disability.

The expansion of AVs, the study indicated, would generate nearly $93 billion in annual federal tax revenue—including new personal income tax, social security tax, excise tax and customs duties. It would also reduce federal spending by $27.8 billion, including reductions in spending from Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance programs due to increased wages for people with disabilities.

Thomas Foley, the NDI’s executive director, expressed excitement for the potential impact of the technology and how it could begin to eliminate a critical barrier to employment for millions of people with disabilities.

“Simply put, fully accessible and autonomous vehicles hold the promise to be a complete economic game-changer for millions of people with disabilities and their families,” he said.

How Have AVs Fared in Trial Runs?

The NDI study focused on Level 4 and Level 5 AVs. Level 4 vehicles are “self-driving” under most conditions, though a human can remotely operate the vehicle if necessary. Level 5 AVs do not require human attention and could be used by individuals with a disability regardless of whether they hold a driver’s license.

Manufacturing companies Cruise—a subsidiary of General Motors, which commissioned the study—and Waymo deploy several Level 4 robotaxis in San Francisco and Phoenix, although they are not customized specifically for people with disabilities. The current technology has had mixed results thus far.

GM and Cruise are designing a version of the taxi to serve people who use wheelchairs and those who otherwise need extra assistance. There is no timetable for their availability.

Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement, “Profitable, fully autonomous vehicles at scale are a long way off.”

Kenneth Shiotani, senior staff attorney for the NDRN, explained that the expansion of AVs has been “just around the corner” for many years, but several companies that manufacture AVs have gone out of business in the last year.

He added that “all or a very significant percentage” of Level 4 and Level 5 AVs would need to be accessible for individuals who use wheelchairs, like public transit buses are today, to employ millions more people with disabilities.

“If the supply of AVs was adequate, and if fares were modest, then I think one of the major barriers to employment [for people with disabilities] would be removed,” Shiotani said.

Further Development Needed

The NDI study noted that 38 states have passed legislation or have had executive orders enacted that permit AV testing, but many of these states still lack associated regulation for commercially deploying these vehicles.

GM has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to raise the cap on the number of vehicles it can deploy.

“Policy adjustments are needed to further AV testing that will inform adoption and manufacturing at scale of these accessible transportation solutions,” Foley said.

Shiotani said employers could partner with AV transportation companies or transit agencies to help their own workers with disabilities travel to the office—much like how technology companies have provided luxury buses to their workers in Silicon Valley.

Organizations could also publicly advocate for AVs that are fully accessible to all passengers, especially people who use wheelchairs, he said.

“When Level 4 and 5 AVs become more ubiquitous, they have the potential to make transportation for people with disabilities in rural areas that cannot financially support public transit systems much better because the significant part of the cost of public transit is the operators, and Level 4 and 5 AVs will make operators unnecessary for many rural trips,” Shiotani explained.

Scherer believes the potential and widespread availability of AVs can have a positive impact on workers with disabilities for years to come.

“I would welcome the opportunity to use safe, reliable AVs in the future,” she said. “Hopefully, they would be more plentiful than wheelchair-accessible taxis and provide another transportation option for those of us who are unable to drive.”