In the Cloud: UM Partners with Amazon to Make Students Job Ready

Cloud computing is one of many tech skills Missoula College at the University of Montana teaches to prepare students for a job in a dynamic tech workforce.

MISSOULA – Just as the world began to transition to remote work, Amazon announced an initiative to prepare 29 million people around the world for roles in cloud computing. A few months earlier, Missoula College at the University of Montana launched the first Cloud Computing Certificate in the state.

In response to a rapidly growing tech sector, UM has partnered with Amazon Web Services, an IT service management subsidiary of Amazon, to prepare students for the jobs of the future. Through their coursework, students cover all the necessary skills and knowledge, such as cloud computing and fiber splicing, to pass certifications for high-tech jobs as part of UM’s Tech Skills for Tomorrow initiative to address a shortage of workers in Montana’s tech industry.

Missoula College Dean Tom Gallagher said the goal is to equip students for just about anything in the workforce through providing them with an in-demand skillset.

“We want all students to be career-ready,” Gallagher said.  “And we want them career-ready the first day at a new job. The Cloud Computing Certificate provides individuals with the technical skills requested by employers and needed to land that first job.”  

In 2020, LinkedIn ranked cloud computing – the delivery of different services through the Internet – as second among the most important hard skills for today’s workforce. Missoula College’s first Cloud Computing Foundations class drew around a dozen students, and in a year, it doubled to 27 and became required for all students pursuing an IT degree.

Missoula College became Amazon-Web Services-certified this semester, a broad credential accepted as the tech industry standard. To receive the Amazon certification, students must take six classes that range from databases to operating systems.

Victor Valgenti, who teaches the cloud computing course and became the only Montana AWS-certified instructor this January, said students may not be aware of why cloud computing is relevant to today’s workforce.

“The cloud is not anything magic, I tell my students all the time,” he said. “It’s not some new thing. The technologies involved in the cloud are not revolutionary technologies. It’s the application that is revolutionary.”

Valgenti likens cloud computing to a video rental market, where large companies offer up their resources as rentals and other companies purchase time on their hardware. He said understanding cloud computing is important as businesses move toward storing in the cloud rather than hosting less secure hardware on the premises that takes up space.

“The cloud is where the industry is moving,” Valgenti said. “It’s really kind of taking over.”

Amos Heil, a Missoula College student pursuing a career in remote network management and security systems, said he hopes to show companies that cloud computing can save both space and money.

“This technology excites me in many ways,” he said. “Learning about it has peeled back a layer and allowed me to see how a lot of companies are operating, as well as shown me how cloud computing can be used by smaller companies to lower startup costs and reach more people.”

For Brenna Bibler, a Missoula College student in Valgenti’s class who wants to learn how to program apps and video games, the future of cloud computing also is promising.

“The most interesting thing about cloud computing to me is thinking about what it could be used for,” Bibler said. “Intel, the world’s largest manufacturer of PC microprocessors, has been researching the ability to decode brainwaves in order to implement interaction with software, model water resource management and even cure cancer.”

Heil said the pandemic only has highlighted the importance of cloud computing.

“Look at how many businesses and classrooms would have been shut down and the negative impact that would have had with COVID-19,” Heil said. “Yet we all moved to Zoom or similar ways of communicating that was housed on the cloud. I wonder how many other businesses moved resources to the cloud and will be staying there after the pandemic ends.”

Missoula College’s cloud computing certificate is open to all UM students, who can pair it with bachelor or associate degrees.  

“Cloud computing training is not just for technical people,” Gallagher said. “It is a technology that everyone needs to know about. We need to understand from a business standpoint some of the concepts involving software as a service, platforms as a service, storage as a service. They are revolutionizing what is taking place in the business industry.”

Bibler also believes everyone can benefit from understanding cloud computing and the opportunities it offers.

“Hopefully more people will catch onto this idea, as the cloud has the ability to create many jobs for people who need them, and the number of services, platforms and applications will rise,” Bibler said. “If more people apply their ideas to cloud computing technology, the internet is going to grow into a marvelous place, made up of many unique applications from people all over the world.”

Valgenti is working on “cloudifying” his other classes to bring them up-to-date. He plans to teach a class on advanced cloud concepts this fall, as well as modify the certificate requirements to work well with other UM programs.

UM also will partner with other institutions across the state and train them in cloud computing this summer, ensuring everyone has access to important tech skills as the cloud only continues to grow.


Contact: Tom Gallagher, UM Missoula College, dean and professor, 406-243-7801,