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Amazon expands free AI training, part of a vendor rush

Amazon extends its free training initiative with new AI trainings, offering more than 100 free AI and machine learning resources. The move is part of a trend among tech giants to offer training around AI.

Software vendors have long offered free product training to accelerate adoption, increase use and build a positive reputation. Amazon is following this trend with new courses for Amazon Q, a generative AI assistant aimed at developers and business users.

Since 2020, Amazon said it is committing to training 29 million people worldwide on cloud and AWS skills, achieving 21 million trained by last fall. Amazon offers more than 600 free courses on AWS Skill Builder including more than 100 resources dedicated to AI and machine learning. This includes labs, exam prep and other learning resources some of which are free or low cost.  

It has now extended its training with AI Ready, a separate program unveiled in November that focuses on AI, machine learning and generative AI with the goal of providing free training to at least two million people on AI skills by 2025.

"We hope it's a lot more," said Jenni Troutman, director of products and services at AWS training and certification.

Recently, it added training for Amazon Q with two courses -- Amazon Q Developer Getting Started and Generative BI with Amazon Q in Quicksight.

But Amazon is also part of a crowded field of free training initiatives, especially around AI. In April, Cisco, Google, IBM, Microsoft, SAP and others established a job training consortium with a goal to upskill and reskill 100 million workers whose jobs are likely to be affected by AI.

Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA, noted that while skills development options continue to grow, it can be difficult to determine what options fit best for employers and employees.

HR challenges in defining value

In a new survey by CompTIA of some 1,200 HR and learning and development professionals, including 500 based in the U.S., 44% reported challenges in quantifying the effects of training on productivity, quality of work and business outcomes.

"It can be tempting for companies to simply provide an all-access license to a learning platform and leave it to individuals to create their own skills development plan," Herbert said. "Like anything, the quality will vary and, by extension, the learning outcomes and applicability in the workplace."

As generative AI is not specific to Amazon, I think there is definite value to be derived from the free training regardless of whether the learner is an AWS user.
Evelyn McMullenAnalyst, Nucleus Research

Other research by CompTIA found that among job seekers, only about one in three rated themselves as very confident in navigating the range of training available.

Amazon plans to continue adding more free courses to its lineup, focusing on both existing and new products such as generative AI services, Troutman said.

Troutman added that early generative AI adopters can be more productive when using generative AI-powered tools. "They're able to work faster, smarter, and have more time to be creative and innovate in their roles," she said.

The free training from Amazon is similar to certification programs from other major tech vendors such as Microsoft, Google and Salesforce. It serves as a marketing push to familiarize people with Amazon Q, according to Evelyn McMullen, an analyst at Nucleus Research.

"However, as generative AI is not specific to Amazon, I think there is definite value to be derived from the free training regardless of whether the learner is an AWS user," McMullen said.

Patrick Thibodeau is an editor at large for TechTarget Editorial who covers HCM and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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