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Ash Foster (Waikato/Tainui) graduated yesterday from an MSD-funded programme with a flash job and a great new work pathway.
The 32-year-old was among the first students to participate in the AWS re/Start programme when it was launched in Aotearoa New Zealand by Amazon Web Services in 2021.
Foster completed the free 12-week course at Unitec and an internship at Datacom just before the August 2021 lockdown and accepted a job offer from Datacom.
Armed with the course credentials, Foster now works in a specialist cloud engineering role within the large organisation and is urging Māori and Pacifica whānau to jump on the waka.
"I have a computer science degree and then worked in construction for several years afterwards," Foster said.
"Just before Covid, I retrained and did a web-development bootcamp and got a job, then Covid came and my role was made redundant. I focused on upskilling in 2020 and did some freelancing, but there weren't many entry-level tech jobs around in lockdown."
Life changed in 2021 when Foster got a call from MSD asking if he'd be interested in the new programme.
"I thought it would be good to do because it was the first run and I could give my feedback – I knew if I did this thing well it would pay off," he said.
"Even when I was retraining in 2019, the tech was changing, public cloud was trending, and I always had my eye on doing something related. I had an advantage going into the course because of my experience, and it gave me time to focus on the gaps in my knowledge and prepared me for the internship.
"The internship was good, and we worked with the professional services team and the cloud operations team, working on a small business case, report writing, and more day to day operations work like scripting and maintaining infrastructure-as-code."
Foster said the support from work colleagues was amazing.
"The best thing was the availability of the senior people. The practice lead is a really nice guy and was instrumental in getting me hired. Even though it's a large company we had the opportunity to ask questions, they sorted our access quickly and made an effort to be welcoming and set us up for success. With the internship, it's more about your attitude than what you know," he said.
"The new role came up late last year and I figured if I went for it I'd probably get it – there was a handover for my operations accounts and I started it in February this year. I'm now in a specialised FinOps team, more focused on financial management, governance and driving value for our customer engagements.
"I think the AWS programme is probably the best thing that MSD has done in terms of momentum-building with a programme, I wanted to be part of it.
"You have to be accountable for your own learning, as it is the nature of our industry to be learning all the time. The programme is supportive but you have to engage with it. I would say to people, if you're half-thinking about it, it's worth checking out, you just have to put in the effort."
Foster was among the group at yesterday's Te Pūkenga and Amazon Web Services (AWS) graduation of New Zealand's tech professionals from the AWS re/Start programme.
The free, 12-week, entry-level cloud skills programme prepares unemployed, underemployed, and transitioning learners for exciting and vital careers in cloud computing, including those from Māori and Pasifika communities.
Twenty-three-year-old Alice Kokado also graduated. She previously worked as a developer in Tokyo, and as a programming and maths tutor in Japan and New Zealand.
"I saw it was an opportunity to learn about cloud – I know that's the future and where the opportunity is, and the internship that is part of the programme is a big deal. I'm doing it to further my skills, and I have completed the AWS Cloud Practitioner Certificate."
Alice is in the middle of a three-month data engineering internship at KiwiRail.
AWS collaborates with Te Pūkenga, the country's largest tertiary education provider, and Unitec, the Auckland-based subsidiary of Te Pūkenga, to deliver the programme locally.
A recent study found that one million more New Zealand workers will require digital skills training for their jobs in the next year – that's 35 per cent of the workforce.
Cybersecurity skills are projected to be the top two most in-demand digital skills by Kiwi employers by 2025, yet the study found less than one third of organisations have training plans in place.
In New Zealand, local companies and organisations across the public sector have signed up to provide internships and employment to graduating AWS re/Start students.
Dr Angela Beaton, Te Pūkenga Deputy chief executive, delivery and academic, says: "AWS re/Start is a great example of an education provider and industry coming together, with a unique internship element which provides a globally recognised credential. The AWS re/Start programme is changing people's lives by offering new opportunities in high-demand fields. It is attracting people from all walks of life and career backgrounds, including those who have had to make a sudden shift in focus and people who may have never considered a career in technology."