Cloud Computing Skills are in High Demand
Cloud jobs are predicted to be one of the strongest tech careers of 2020 and beyond, fuelled by rapid global cloud computing adoption. Cloud computing had already entered the mainstream, but with the drastic increase in remote work and video conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are moving to the cloud at an even more rapid pace.
Microsoft’s Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Education, recently shared the growing demand for cloud computing platform Microsoft Azure in a CertMatters.Live Online session. Microsoft Azure is being used by over 57 percent of Fortune 500 companies, has received official accreditation from the UK government, and over 1,000 new customers sign up daily to adopt Azure. The need in the job market is clear – LinkedIn ranked cloud computing as the second most in-demand hard skill for 2020 and according to Indeed.com, Azure job postings grew by an astonishing 302 percent in the last four years.
Leading universities worldwide, such as the University of Lincoln in the UK, understand the importance of preparing their students with the in-demand skills they need to win these jobs and are adding industry-recognized certifications to their programs to meet the need.
The University of Lincoln Equips Students with Workforce Cloud Skills
The University of Lincoln is a Gold Standard University, putting its students at the heart of everything they do from award-winning teaching to great industry partnerships. Employers are looking for individuals who can start off prepared to make a difference in today’s global workplace, and the University aims to provide students with the tools they need to achieve their career aspirations.
Derek Foster, Associate Professor in Computer Science at the University of Lincoln shared, “Lots of our curriculum is informed by industry and our academic modules are all guided by best practices in industry. We really view cloud computing as one of the pillars of skills students need to demonstrate competencies and skillsets.”
The University of Lincoln has embedded certification throughout their computer science programs and specifically partnered with Prodigy Learning, a global EdTech business, and Microsoft UK to adopt Microsoft certification in 2017 to validate in-demand technology skills and help students bolster their resumes.
Microsoft recently introduced new role-based certification paths to help students prepare for specific technology careers. The Developer certification track includes Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900), which helps individuals prove knowledge of cloud concepts, core Azure services, and the fundamentals of cloud security, privacy, compliance, and trust.
Prodigy Learning, in partnership with Microsoft, set out to pilot the Azure Fundamentals certification program at six universities including Lincoln, providing each with Azure Fundamentals in a Box. This curriculum solution was designed to help students gain the skills required for certification over four weeks and included official Microsoft content, MeasureUp practice tests, LinkedIn Learning videos, a pre-exam pep talk and would culminate with the AZ-900 certification exam.
The Prodigy Learning team worked with Lincoln and the other pilot universities to unpack the resources, teach them how to use Azure labs, set up MeasureUp practice accounts, and how to deliver the certification exam. They began in January 2020 and performed a follow-up training in March. The plan after the training was completed was for Lincoln to deliver the four to six-week learning program to students immediately, but a week after the training, the global pandemic was on the horizon.
Pivoting for a Global Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted daily life worldwide, especially for educators and students working to continue to master technology skills to ensure a successful future.
Prodigy Learning already had a number of online resources including video learning and practice tests to assist students at home. Typically certification candidates must test in a Certiport Authorized Testing Centre, but Certiport and Prodigy Learning worked tirelessly to pilot and enable candidates to test at home after the pandemic hit. Certiport Exams from Home became a temporary solution to allow students to continue to earn industry-recognized certification with a secure, proctored at-home solution.
Andrew Griggs, COO at Prodigy Learning noted, “Our priority as a global digital skills and certifications provider is to empower learners with digital skills and globally, industry-recognised certifications for the future. Now, more than ever it is critical we continue to deliver on our priority as the current situation presents a very different future job landscape for students.”
Lincoln was busy flipping their own processes and courses to be delivered off-campus, which led to several weeks of downtime for the Azure Fundamentals program as they got their core course offerings in place. However, they were committed to continuing the Azure Fundamentals program and AZ-900 certification before the school year was up.
“The pandemic certainly brought us to a quick halt and forced us to find new ways to deliver all student learning, and we were a bit disappointed since we had just finished the ‘train the trainers’ portion of our Azure Fundamentals rollout,” said Foster. “However, both Microsoft and Prodigy Learning kept in close contact with us to let us know that they were working on a way to continue the pilot. Our teachers and students were patient as we got all of the curriculum in order and figured out how we could ensure real success because learning did not stop.”
Earning Microsoft Azure Certification at Home
The University of Lincoln had already delivered nearly 1,000 traditional certification exams prior to the pandemic, and they became the first of many Prodigy customers to find success with the Exams from Home solution. On Monday 11th May 2020, 72 University of Lincoln students took the Azure Fundamentals AZ-900 certification exam and 35 students became the UK’s first group to earn Azure certification at home.
Foster commented, “In the face of the COVID-19 situation it is an incredible opportunity for us and our students to be able to seamlessly adapt and equip our learners with Microsoft certification. We are beyond delighted to be able to prepare our students for future careers and continue to deliver Gold Standard teaching quality with the help of Prodigy Learning’s online resources and ‘at Home’ certification testing.”
Pathway to a Cloud Computing Career
Having now earned Microsoft Azure Fundamentals certification, University of Lincoln students have started their pathway to successful careers in AI, Data Science and Cloud Computing. Within a few hours of earning official Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals certification, students were able to share their AZ-900 digital badge on their CV and professional LinkedIn profile.
Foster says student feedback on the Azure Fundamentals exam has been fantastic. University of Lincoln student, Michal Pierzchalski shared, “Azure Fundamentals helped me understand the concepts of cloud computing but also consider a possible career in Cloud Computing.” Another student, Garry Clawson, said, “Azure Fundamentals took me from a very rough awareness of what Cloud was, to being confident with the deployment of Azure services.”
The University of Lincoln recognizes the importance of industry transferable skillsets through certification and they believe that engaging with certification provides students with insight on the types of computing careers they can pursue upon graduating.
“The future of computing is in the cloud, and the cloud is growing – fast!” said Griggs. “Empowering learners with Azure Fundamentals certification means they will come out of this with the key to starting their cloud computing careers, despite the limitations caused by COVID-19. A huge congratulations to the University of Lincoln students on achieving AZ-900 Certification, I look forward to seeing them prosper in the future.”
For more information on Microsoft Certified Fundamentals and Certiport Exams at Home, visit prodigylearning.com.