Howard U. and AWS to equip students with cloud skills to tackle workforce problems

Howard University and AWS announced a plan for a new masters degree in data science in 2022, offering training on cloud services and other technology.
Howard University sign
(meabbott / Flickr)

Howard University and Amazon Web Services are working together to educate staff and students on cloud technologies, building from concepts in AWS Educate, an online learning program.

The partnership announced this month that Howard University, a private historically Black institution in Washington D.C., is incorporating cloud computing throughout its offerings, including launching a new master’s degree in data science in 2022, offering training on cloud services and other technology to faculty and extending cloud computing courses to the Howard Middle School of Math and Science, which is located on the university’s campus.

Incorporating segments of AWS cloud courses is intended to allow Howard to offer students up-to-date technical skills, preparing them for the workforce. Offering faculty training in cloud skills and areas like machine learning and cybersecurity will allow them to incorporate these technologies into their curriculums.

Anthony Wutoh, Howard’s provost and chief academic officer, told EdScoop the university is working on its interdisciplinary approach to education, in which students in different fields can take technology and apply it to interesting problems.


“What we had in mind was looking at data science, not just from the technical aspects, but how we could use data science to address and to answer broader societal problems, so looking at criminal justice reform, looking at health care disparities, looking at the disparities in economic positioning by race and ethnicity,” he said. “What we foresaw was was applying Howard’s social-justice mission and working with significant industry leaders like AWS to see if there may be ways for us to to create programs to help us to help society to address these broader societal issues.”

Wutoh said the university is looking at a potential need for advanced computing technology for students and faculty to use in these programs, but that there should be no problem with internet capacity. Howard has refreshed its network over the past three years.

Though the skills covered by the new initiative are technical, Wutoh said he views cloud competency as a “currency everyone can use.”

“The idea of the ‘ivory tower’ and students learning things that won’t necessarily be applicable to them being able to to engage and participate in and make an impact immediately in the workforce is something that we’re constantly ideating about and thinking about how to modernize our curriculum and how to make sure that our faculty really are thinking in the most contemporary way,” he said.

Kim Majerus, who leads AWS’ state, local and education practice, told EdScoop partnerships like the one with Howard are key to making sure students are equipped with the skills needed to enter an evolving workforce — and for companies like Amazon to ensure they have the talent they need. Howard’s D.C. campus is a few miles from Arlington, Virginia, where Amazon is developing a 25,000-person corporate campus.


“Take a look at what’s happened over the last two years and you see how much has transformed due to COVID,” Majerus said. “Skills are needed to help these companies continue to innovate and they saw the best innovations come through technology. So again, you think of the curriculum that Howard is empowering their students with coupled by the focus in data and analytics and applying that to whether social challenges, health care, criminal justice, those are all the exciting things that those students are going to bring to the global workforce.”

An analysis of 2019-2020 job postings by the labor market analytics firm Emsi found that data skills were one of the top categories in the tech industry and found that Amazon Web Services and data engineering were the two fastest-growing skills.

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