The first edition of Italy’s National STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Disciplines Week to stimulate interest - in particular, of young women - in technical and scientific disciplines took place a few days ago.

Evidence shows that these subjects are still predominantly male-dominated in Italy. According to DESI data, although women account for more than half of all college graduates (57.7%) in Italy, only 8.8 % have a degree in STEM subjects.

At Amazon and Amazon Web Services (AWS), we believe in bridging this gap by breaking down stereotypes of young female students, by collaborating with institutions, universities, schools, and other companies, fostering a system that incentivises girls to pursue STEM studies. This will have a positive impact not only for women - who will have more career opportunities - but also for companies, which will be able to hire increasingly specialised talent while closing the gender gap.

According to recent research commissioned by AWS, finding staff with good digital skills remains a challenge in Italy, and only 19% consider it an easy task. Still, Italian companies recognise the strong potential of digital technologies: 83% of them consider these crucial in order to achieve their five-year growth targets.

In a broader scenario that sees Europe at the centre of an ambitious goal set by the European Commission - to make it a digital leader by 2030 by expecting 75% of enterprises to use cloud computing and artificial intelligence - the digital skills gap is among the biggest obstacles for Italian companies to fully access the benefits of a digital future.

We firmly believe that education, particularly in STEM fields, plays a key role in developing a quality career path for many young people in the country, and the sixth edition of the Amazon Women in Innovation scholarship and the AWS re/Start training programme in collaboration with Develhope boosts the development of technical and scientific skills among young women in Italy.

The sixth edition of the Amazon Women in Innovation bursary

Since 2018, the Amazon Women in Innovation bursary has been supporting young women who have chosen a university study path in STEM fields, through which to date we have awarded scholarships of €6,000 per year for three years, to 19 female students. This year, another seven students will be able to access this opportunity: a chance to familiarise themselves with the professional sphere during their academic career. In the current 2023-24 edition of the project, seven Italian universities were involved: the University of Cagliari, the Polytechnic University of Milan, the Federico II University of Naples, the University of Palermo, the University of Rome "Tor Vergata", the Polytechnic University of Turin, and the University of Catania.

In addition to supporting the students financially, we provide a mentor who can help them in developing useful skills for the future, such as techniques for creating an effective resume or having a job interview at Amazon or other companies.

The AWS re/Start programme and the Amazon Supply Chain & Technology Incubator, in collaboration with Develhope

We also provide the AWS re/Start programme, which aims to develop the skills needed to launch a career in cloud computing. The March 2024 edition, in collaboration with Develhope, is dedicated to train at least 25 young women from Campania through real-world scenarios, hands-on labs, and courses, enabling students to acquire the skills they need to enter the cloud world professionally. Selection is still ongoing, and at least half of the candidates must meet the following requirements: under 25 years of age; resident in Campania; and not currently studying nor working. The other half may be women from Campania who have recently graduated from high school, with no further requirements. Once the programme has concluded, Develhope will facilitate them to join partner companies, supporting their job entry into the tech world, for entry-level cloud roles such as cloud operations, site reliability, infrastructure support, and tech-related business support functions.

Last December, we launched the Amazon Supply Chain & Technology Incubator together with Develhope - a start-up incubation programme that will support young people between the ages of 18 and 25 in Sicily and Campania to realise their innovative ideas through a programme of specialised training and financial support.

Amazon and AWS’s commitment to providing STEM training opportunities

Amazon Women in Innovation and AWS re/Start are just part of the wide range of projects and initiatives we deploy to provide access to top-notch computer science education opportunities, while inspiring young women to enter the field.

We also provide courses in Python, one of the most popular programming languages, available to primary and secondary school students by supporting Turinglab, an online platform that offers simple, intuitive and interactive lessons to help students understand the fundamental coding concepts; as well as offering teachers features to facilitate the integration of these tools into lessons.

AWS offers additional opportunities, such as the AWS Academy, which provides higher education institutions with free cloud computing courses to prepare students for AWS certifications and high-demand skills. In Italy, AWS Academy collaborates with more than 50 universities and institutes. AWS also promotes technical skills growth with Tech Alliance by encouraging educational institutions and employers to bridge the skills gap and prepare students for their future jobs. Through this initiative, more than 20,000 students have accessed courses, collaborating with institutions such as ITS Angelo Rizzoli Milan, ITS ICT Piemonte Turin, ITS Steve Jobs Academy Catania, and many others.

Finally, AWS also promotes programmes for younger students, such as AWS GetIT for middle schools, which introduces cloud computing and improves access to digital skills education. Students learn how to solve real problems with technology and are supported by AWS Ambassadors. So far, the programme has trained more than 38,000 students in 13 countries. In Italy, AWS GetIT is developed in collaboration with WeSchool, and enrolment for 2024/25 will open in May this year.