Gender diversity is a hot topic across the business world and the tech sector is no exception. The Yapang Initiative is a unique collaboration between the world’s largest provider of cloud technologies and a local indigenous-owned technology training company that is actively closing the diversity gap.

Amazon Web Services has collaborated with Goanna Solutions to provide technology skills training with an emphasis on diversity.

The importance of inspiring more women into tech careers has been widely broadcast in the media and is based on statistics, particularly from the US, UK and Australia where women make up half the working population but only 9-25% of the professional computing workforce.

This is an issue, not just because diversity has been shown to improve the quality of ideas and the bottom line, but because digital skills are becoming a critical component of more jobs.

In many cases, those jobs are the most highly remunerated.

Gender isn’t just a ‘pipeline issue’.

Less widely known but just as important is the need to stem the tide of senior female employees leaving the tech sector because they cannot find sufficient support, life-balance or matching values.

So, the tech sector has been actively looking for effective strategies to drive diversity …. and then COVID came along!

The tech sector itself has actually fared quite well during the crisis, but in the general workforce women have been hit harder than men for a variety of reasons, including women being more highly represented in retail, tourism and hospitality

The silver lining to the current COVID crisis

The opportunity that now presents itself is that this is a fantastic time for tech companies to look at how they can help women to upskill or re-skill out of low-paid service jobs into new careers in technology.

This is not a simple problem to solve; it requires the correct motivation, the time and the money to be invested in the right programs.

Reskilling people is not about giving them a Udemy or Coursera login and hoping for the best.

It isn’t even about reducing the cost of Higher Education or TAFE qualifications and encouraging everyone to just “study something STEM-related”!

It is about targeted, thoughtful programs that are linked to industry and career outcomes.

The Yapang Initiative is one such program.

It is the result of the collaboration between Goanna Solutions and the AWS re/Start program.

The Yapang Initiative launched its first cohort in Australia as part of the Global AWS re/Start program on 22 June, with 7 more intakes planned over the next 12 months.

It is a 12-week, full time, immersive, live training program designed to support those with little prior technical knowledge to learn IT fundamentals, cloud fundamentals and AWS systems operations.

The program is hands-on and very practical. It links participants to relevant industry mentors and job opportunities.

It is supportive and designed to build not just technical skills but to hone enterprise skills like collaboration and critical thinking.

Participants are also prepared to complete the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam which is a recognised entry level qualification, sought after by employers in the sector.

The critical requirements for success in the program are not high-level tech skills.

They are: motivation, determination and a desire to make a career in the tech industry.

The outcomes are significant:

  1. An in-demand industry certification. AWS is the dominant player in the Cloud Services market and as Liam Kelly, the MD of recruiter Halcyon Knights, pointed out in a recent Information Age article, “The most commonly sought-after and available cloud engineers work with AWS.”
  2. Entry level roles in one of the fastest-growing areas of tech. Gartner predicted in 2019 that cloud services would grow at three times the rate of the regular IT sector – and COVID has only increased demand for cloud services.

Re-skilling female candidates in a meaningful, supportive way is a vital part of the battle.

Technology companies also need to look at their ‘graduate programs’, their internal culture and their desire to embrace and support entry level roles for people who don’t fit the standard ‘uni grad” criteria.

They also need to work to keep and promote their senior female role models.

The next course intake begins 12 October.

ACS is a supporter of The Yapang Initiative.

Sally Browner is the CEO of Goanna Education.