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Georgia is offering any employee at a state agency migrating its operations to the cloud free training in an effort to increase technology skills and build institutional knowledge.
As Georgia works through a large-scale IT infrastructure upgrade, it is offering any employee at a state agency that is migrating its operations to the cloud eight weeks of free training on cloud technology, the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) and its partners announced today.
The Technical College System of Georgia is providing training on advanced cloud technologies through Amazon Web Services. The program is an extension of TCSG’s Cloud Academy, which launched in 2020 to help enhance workers’ cloud computing skills, and a 2021 partnership between the state and AWS to deliver cloud computing courses to 5,500 high-school and technical college students by 2024.
Training will be available at no cost to employees thanks to state-level HOPE Grants, with GTA covering any remaining costs, according to the Authority’s Chief Technology Officer Dmitry Kagansky. However, staff must be working for an agency that is migrating to the cloud to be eligible for the program, he said. Participants in the eight-week fast-track course can either participate in real-time video-based labs with instructors or proceed at their own pace.
GTA manages state agency IT infrastructure and security and provides managed network services to more than 1,200 state and local government entities.
Its partnership with TCSG is part of a “larger upskilling effort on the agency side” to prepare state employees to better use cloud computing tools and technology as GTA migrates many state agencies and services to the cloud, a process that began over a year ago, Kagansky said. GTA began this new cloud upskilling initiative with an initial cohort of 20 state employees and is now rolling it out to other agencies.
“Truthfully, training is one of the things that I think we were lagging on, I'll fully admit that, when we started the cloud move,” Kagansky said. “The technology isn't really the problem. It's always the people and making sure they're comfortable with this move.”
TCSG Chief Information Officer Steven Ferguson said the curriculum includes lessons on cloud administration, as well as how to migrate servers and systems to the cloud and back them up using the features found in AWS. Students also learn about the cost modeling associated with cloud migration so they can understand the financial impacts.
All those lessons combine to give students some initial understanding of the fundamentals of the cloud, Ferguson said. This work of “building cloud muscle” will help staff become better architects or managers of their systems and to act as cloud system administrators.
A lack of cybersecurity and cloud skills among state employees has government leaders concerned about the future if workers are unable to implement strategies like zero trust or help deliver online services that many residents now expect in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given those skill gaps, Ferguson said it is important not just to bring in new employees where possible, but to reskill existing workers to help ease the transition to the cloud, especially if current employees have knowledge of existing systems they can tap into.
“There’s opportunities to bring in new talent, but you have a workforce with institutional knowledge and also knowledge of these legacy systems you're going to be migrating over,” he said. “We have to grow and bring along our existing talent, while also onboarding new talent.”
State officials will measure success by seeing not just how many agency employees become cloud-certified, but also by assessing how support tickets submitted to GTA change in their volume or nature. With more professionals certified to work with cloud, Kagansky said there should be a greater level of autonomy and so less need for emergency help. He said he also expects a greater agency focus on reviewing architecture and planning for future cloud needs.
For Georgia, this effort to train more cloud professionals is especially important as the state migrates most of its services away from on-prem systems and into the cloud. Kagansky said most migrations are between 50% and 75% complete, with a project to migrate legacy mainframe infrastructure likely to take at least the rest of this year. IT systems for state agencies that are required to have a physical presence like the labs found in health agencies will stay on-prem.
In their day-to-day work, Kagansky said state employees find cloud technology more responsive than the previous infrastructure. The scalable, automated cloud services are an improvement over data centers that were required to be running all the time. That reduction in operating time reduces costs, Kagansky said.
“Just like in your house, you leave the room, you turn the light off,” he said. “You never do that in a data center, as data centers are always on. We're encouraging agencies to say to that training site, the development test site—anything that's not production—to get into the habit of turning things off. Let's drive costs down. And that's something that they haven't really done in the past.”
Both Ferguson and Kagansky said they hope to expand the training program beyond AWS and into other clouds, to reflect Georgia’s multicloud strategy and offer more advanced training. Getting more employees proficient in cloud technologies will be a long process, and it requires partnerships between governments, academia and private industry to make migration a reality, Ferguson said. “There is no magic wand for moving to the cloud,” he added.