Cecile Bonnet, AWS GetIT Global Programme Lead

The pandemic has been a catalyst for change for many industries. For the tech sector in particular, it has put the spotlight on the importance of digital skills and tech talent, and the role these play in the growth and resilience of businesses of all sizes.

It’s no surprise that, according to LinkedIn, cloud computing skills were among the top three most in-demand skills for employers in the past three years – particularly in the context of COVID-19, which prompted businesses to move online and led to soaring demand for cloud skills and training.

In the UK, continued job creation and investment deals have been key to fuelling innovation in the sector. In fact, data for the last year shows that the tech sector is making positive steps towards recovery from the impact of COVID-19, with job vacancies climbing 50% since the year’s lowest point in July. With 10% of all UK job vacancies now within tech, there is an opportunity to upskill and train our next generation to fill those gaps with crucial technology-based skills.

Nonetheless, today in the UK, women account for only 31% of all tech jobs – which means the percentage of those specifically in computing roles is even smaller than that. With this statistic in mind, there is a real opportunity to create programmes that will motivate and support the next generation of girls to become tomorrow’s tech innovators and leaders, for example, through programmes like AWS GetIT.

AWS GetIT – Initiatives that inspire

AWS GetIT is designed to introduce secondary school students aged between 12 and 13 - particularly girls – to cloud computing and digital skills in order to inspire them to consider a career in technology. Since launching in the UK in 2018, the programme has captured the imagination of thousands of students from hundreds of schools across the country. This year, we also introduced the programme in Ireland for the first time.

AWS GetIT invites teams from different schools to take part in an inter-school app design competition to solve a real issue faced by their school or community. Students attend an AWS GetIT Bootcamp, where they learn about the different stages of developing software, including how to identify a target audience for their application, problem solving, brainstorming and research techniques, prototyping, and test and development. The students also learn about Amazon’s working backwards approach to innovation and get guidance from female leaders at AWS – AWS GetIT ambassadors and volunteers – who host and mentor students during the bootcamps, and provide support, feedback and guidance on developing their application ideas in a fun and collaborative environment.

From here, each school enters up to two ideas into the competition. AWS shortlists 10 teams to present to an expert panel of judges, who select a winning team and present them with their prize – the opportunity to work directly with AWS teams for a day, to workshop how they would bring their app idea to life.

The programme also introduces students to the variety of roles available in technology to give them a sense of the different types of career paths, to help them imagine what working in tech might be like, and to help them learn about the positive impact that women are having in the industry.

Meet the 2021 winners

This year’s UK winners were from St James Academy in Dudley. Team members Jaishmeet, Roha, Rhys, McKayla, Sara, and Adiele created an app idea called ‘NuU’ to connect people and provide support on mental health issues.

Jaishmeet, one of the students on the winning team, said that she loved being part of AWS GetIT: “It allowed me to understand what working as part of a team is like, how to present professionally, and I also gained self-confidence by presenting to different audiences. The experience definitely inspired me to consider a career in tech.”

St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls in Carshalton, South London, were awarded the runner-up prize for their app North Star. The personal safety app is designed to keep young people and teenagers safe when travelling alone, with an emphasis on making it fun and easy to understand.

Building skills for the future

Cloud computing is one of the most significant technological advances of our time, and it has become vital for businesses in the UK and Ireland. With this demand expected to grow consistently, initiatives as such AWS GetIT can help to start addressing this gap.

If the UK and Ireland are to realise the true potential of cloud computing, it is crucial to bolster the tech talent pipeline and create new career opportunities for all. Our leaders of tomorrow are the students of today.

As team member Alyssa from St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls explained: “This opportunity opened our eyes to the vast range of roles in technology, especially for girls, and has inspired us to think about how we can use the skills we developed to help other people through innovation.”

You can learn how your school can get involved in the 2021-2022 programme on the AWS GetIT website.

Cecile Bonnet, AWS GetIT Global Programme Lead.

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