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The official magazine of Oklahoma State University

OSU-OKC's partnership with Amazon helps the company, the community and the college

Thursday, May 14, 2020

OSU-OKC is the state’s first recognized AWS Academy member. AWS Academy provides higher education institutions with cloud computing curriculum.

When Amazon workforce recruiters came to town in the summer of 2018, Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City put out the welcome mat. What transpired sparked a great and growing partnership.

OSU-OKC President Brad Williams knew Amazon would need help processing applicants for the thousands of jobs at its 640,000-square-foot fulfillment center and other metro facilities.

In the mid-2000s, Williams worked at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce when Dell located a customer support center in Oklahoma City, so he was familiar with the needs of a corporation aiming to build out a workforce when entering a new market.

“We had experience with this type of site-location project, and we knew what type of support was needed in order for a company to ramp up operations in the metro area,” Williams said.

The college served as the employment hub for the company through December 2019.

“It’s just been an awesome experience with OSU-OKC,” said Jamie Jackson, who managed the Amazon workforce team on campus.

“One of the biggest obstacles to hiring a large workforce in a community you don’t know is finding an accessible and consistent location for the huge volume of job candidates and new hires,” Jackson said.

“By partnering with OSU-OKC, we connected with a staple of the community and it gave us a different perspective.”

The partnership brought more than 15,000 job applicants to campus, and more than 10,000 were hired.

"It's just been an awesome experience with OSU-OKC."

Jamie Jackson, Amazon Manager

While the applicants were on campus, college recruiters talked with them about what OSU-OKC could offer.

“Our first goal was to help people increase their earning potential, which can be life-changing,” Williams said. “Now we are ready to help them as education opens wide the door of opportunity.”

After 12 months on the job, Amazon will prepay 95 percent of tuition for its employees who take courses related to high-demand fields such as nursing, commercial truck driving and information technology.

Williams predicts hosting Amazon’s job recruitment efforts will bring many of those employees back to OSU-OKC to continue their education.

Jackson said she admires how OSU-OKC approaches education by looking at what it can do to make people more marketable for existing jobs.

Many workers at the fulfillment center will reach their one-year anniversary in August, making them eligible for the tuition benefit.

“I’m so excited for August to come around and see what that means for OSU-OKC,” Jackson said.

Expanding Areas

The successful partnership moved quickly from Amazon’s e-commerce operation to its cloud computing branch, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

As OSU-OKC embarked on its own AWS cloud strategy, it became clear the college needed to prepare students and community members for the way business increasingly is being done.

Tonya Ward

LinkedIn’s list of the Top 10 hard skills employers are seeking in 2020 ranks cloud computing second. Analysts say the worldwide public cloud services market will grow to around $300 billion in 2020.

AWS’ range of web-based technologies support companies such as Adobe Systems, Airbnb and Netflix. OSU-OKC is positioning itself to serve as a talent pipeline for these types of companies.

“It’s a growing field with a huge gap in the knowledge,” said Lisa Fisher, OSU-OKC senior director for community engagement. “Companies are adopting a full- or hybrid-cloud infrastructure and moving all or some of their data to the cloud for redundancy. We want to help educate the workforce tasked with cloud-based responsibilities.”

Throughout 2019, the college brought experts to campus for a series of AWS technology forums.

And in April, OSU-OKC became the state’s first recognized AWS Academy member. AWS Academy provides higher education institutions with cloud computing curriculum that prepares students to pursue industry-recognized certifications and in-demand cloud jobs.

“We are thrilled to work with AWS in this capacity that is shaping the way the world does business,” Williams said.

OSU-OKC offered its first AWS Academy course in cloud foundations in fall 2019. Tonya Ward took the 16-week course to increase her understanding of cloud philosophy.

“I have an IT background, but I didn’t have a lot of strength in the intricacies of cloud technology,” said Ward, the administrator for a law firm in downtown Oklahoma City. “I got a very good understanding of how any cloud system works.”

“The world of e-commerce, and now mobile commerce, is evolving at a rapid pace,” Williams said. “OSU-OKC is very pleased to be involved in the types of discussions that are redefining the volume and range of transactions that make possible the world of business.”

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