Santa Cruz Tech Company Will Provide Expanded Learning – Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ — Chris Miller, the president of Cloud Brigade, intrigued the Santa Cruz tech community with a surprise announcement just three weeks ago.
Miller stated his company’s intentions to turn its offices into a tech learning lab. The Cloud Brigade team had moved away for the pandemic and the majority of workers want to stay that way. So Miller came up with another way to make the most of space.
The idea behind the Learning Lab is to bridge the gap between school and the workforce. The learning lab will be an opportunity for students – whether they are from UC Santa Cruz or Cabrillo College – to gain hands-on experience by applying knowledge learned in the classroom.
“Essentially what we’re doing is taking all of this cumulative knowledge that we’ve accumulated and creating projects that mimic real-world needs — real-world scenarios,” Miller said. “Students can enroll in internships where they will be tasked with selecting a project, executing it, and bringing it to a particular outcome.”
However, the learning lab is not just for students at a higher education institution. The same opportunities will also be available to members of the community, provided they have basic knowledge of computers.
In fact, Miller didn’t start his career in technology originally. After elementary school, he went to vocational school and became a car mechanic. It was the idea of a vocational school, a place where students tend to learn to work with their hands in an environment of applied skills, that guided the Cloud Brigade Learning Lab.
“It is an element that is missing and that can certainly fill this gap. The professional element that allowed me to become a mechanic is something that resonates with me,” Miller said. “It’s about taking that foundational knowledge and learning how to build things.”
Amazon Web Services provided Miller with modules to use as part of the learning expedition. Many modules focus on working with artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.
The learning lab will also be an opportunity for students to learn the soft skills they will need in the industry. This will include the skills needed to work in a technical team, as well as those needed to fine-tune a product so that it can be shipped globally and be user-friendly.
“We always welcome innovative experiential education opportunities for students and young alumni,” said UCSC spokeswoman Suz Howells.
Symbiotically, the Learning Lab will not only serve the needs of new tech superstars hoping to break into the industry. It will also help Cloud Brigade and the Santa Cruz tech landscape as a whole.
In recent years, the region has struggled to recruit local tech talent. Simply put, small businesses in Santa Cruz are struggling to compete with the well-resourced tech giants on the hill of Silicon Valley to attract talent.
The Learning Lab provides an opportunity to nurture more talent and create local workers. The effort may even lead to Cloud Brigade managing to build its own future employees.
“He wants to help screen talent and then make introductions to hiring companies,” said Doug Erickson, executive director of Santa Cruz Works. “Essentially, it creates a talent pool.”
There is no cost to participate in the learning lab, Miller noted. Instead, those who wish to apply their knowledge and gain experience will simply apply for the experience.
The conversion should be nearly complete by the end of the month and the apps will be available in early April, according to Miller.
Although the main objective of the learning lab is to translate education into the workforce, it will also have a community element. The converted space will also serve as a center for tech-minded clubs and groups to use for meetings.
“We’re doing something new that certainly doesn’t exist in Santa Cruz. “I understand there have been similar patterns happening in Europe,” Miller said, speaking of the rumored success in Stockholm to bridge the skills gap.