Going the way of fax machines, electronic handshakes and maybe even the dodo bird is yet another fixture of modern office life: The server room.

The air-conditioned, fortified vault that once housed the beating heart of most organizations – creating a safe habitat for the network server – is vanishing as small to mid-size businesses, and even many larger operations, move their computer networks to the cloud.

A new program at Missoula College is preparing IT students – and anyone who wants to understand this mass migration into the cybersphere – to work in the cloud environment. The 27 students taking Associate Professor Vic Valgenti’s new “Cloud Systems” course this spring will be prepared to take an exam to become an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Cloud Practitioner.

“The cloud has such a huge reach right now that there’s no end to the people who can benefit from understanding it,” said Valgenti, Missoula College’s Information Technology Program Director. “The certification is another feather in your cap to distinguish you.”

Amazon Web ServicesMissoula College is the first within the Montana University System to offer the training through a public/private partnership with Amazon Web Services. Valgenti dedicates a third of his course to curriculum provided by AWS at no cost to the college or students. As part of Amazon's AWS Academy , the students work through 10 modules, each followed by the opportunity to apply the new skills in a virtual lab or “sandbox.” The hands-on component is an opportunity to learn what happens behind-the-scenes to create a seamless experience for users on the front end of a cloud-based system or service.

While Valgenti’s first cohort is comprised entirely of IT students, he expects the offering to attract interest from other students and professionals who want to understand the benefits of the cloud and how it applies to tech-adjacent fields such as marketing and sales.

Aimed at both IT and non-IT professionals, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification was introduced in 2017 in recognition of the need for organizations and individuals to validate foundational knowledge of AWS. By August 2020, more than 400,000 individuals held active AWS Certifications, a number that grew more than 85 percent between August 2019 and August 2020, according to Kevin Kelly, director of Cloud Career Training Programs at Amazon Web Services. Kelly is also a proud Griz, having earned Master’s of Administrative Sciences from the University of Montana in 1992.

“Institutions are being forced to rethink their business models and to deliver high-quality, mixed modality and industry-relevant learning experiences and employment outcomes for their students,” said Kelly. “… As the AWS Academy program continues to evolve, institutions will continue to play a pivotal role in producing Academy graduates in areas like cloud architecting, cloud developing, cloud systems, and machine learning. AWS Academy will work closely with statewide university and college systems, as well as the Career Placement Officers within institutions, to refine the delivery and training of our students, including eventual placement in the community in cloud jobs.”

The cloud is especially advantageous for entrepreneurial spirits launching startups. “The beauty of the cloud is that your upfront costs are very low and it’s pay as you go,” said Valgenti, who recently earned his certification as an AWS instructor so he could teach the AWS curriculum.

Vic ValgentiAs new and existing businesses leave hardware behind like wagon wheels on the prairie, recruiters are looking for IT personnel with cloud skills. While they may no longer have a physical computer network in house, cloud-based businesses still need IT professionals to monitor and administer their cloud-based network. The 22nd Century IT professional will often serve as an intermediary who helps create the cloud-based architecture and infrastructure that will serve their organization’s employees and customers.

In a recent survey by the Enterprise Strategy Group, which was commissioned by Amazon, 97 percent of organizations queried indicated that employment of AWS Certified staff will put their company in a better competitive position over the next three to five years.

For Missoula College, offering employer-based curriculum is nothing new. Cisco has long offered curriculum and labs that familiarize and train students to use its products in the workplace. “It’s to their benefit that we produce people who understand their systems,” Valgenti said. Whether the training is based on curriculum provided by Cisco, Amazon, Microsoft or another provider, the concepts apply across platforms, he added.

As interest grows, Valgenti hopes to develop new course offerings, perhaps one day going beyond the realm of IT to make cloud computing skills a general ed requirement.

“Professionals are required to be more tech-savvy than they were in the past and this is the next level,” said Valgenti. “In the next give or take 10 years everyone should know how to work in the cloud and make use of it.”


Back to Top