Datacentre skills shortage

A skills shortage is still rampant in the tech industry. The data centre is no exception. At the Datacloud Europe Congress in Monaco it was claimed that operators will continue to struggle to plug talent gap if they focus on finding candidates with years of experience. Instead, aptitude for the type of work should be assessed.

The employment net needs to be cast wider. There is a very public skills crisis in this area, especially with the rate of growth and expansion of this field of work. Cloud computing is booming, but more data centres does not necessarily mean more jobs.

Tech giants Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft built their centres in cheaper and more rural areas. But jobs are not created for the residents.

The main cause for concern

Peter Hannaford, founder and CEO of recruitment firm, Data centre People said, “as recruiters, when you talk to people about hiring talent, [we’re always told], ‘We want someone with at least five years’ experience who can hit the ground running,’”.

“Now the problem is there aren’t enough people with five years’ experience who can hit the ground running in every single discipline, so we need to broaden their minds to see where we are going to find people to fill this void.”

Additionally, problems arise from the number of staff. CBRE in 2014 found that the number of jobs in an average data centre was capped at 30. A typical company headquarter can have between 200 and 1,000 jobs.

Case Studies

Microsoft in Boydton data centre, Virginia:

  • Outside technicians were brought in to do the work
  • 25 local residents got jobs, primarily as administrative assistants or janitorial staff.
  • Hundreds of Boydton residents lost their jobs in recent years as factories and a prison closed down
  • There are positives in restaurants, hotels and petrol stations, but in terms of the industry itself there was no opportunity

Microsoft in the Netherlands:

  • Had to source 20 candidates
  • 60% of these roles were filled by people who worked in other fields. This included oil, gas and military
  • It is said that those from military and naval background will have an experience in tech and understand when something is ‘mission critical’

What could be changed?

James Wilman, CEO of Future-Tech, a data centre design and construction company said the company wants to close talent gaps through aptitude testing, profiling and mentorship. Bright people with the right personality traits learns very quickly. Therefore, a senior engineer could be partnered with a junior engineer and the work can be transferred quickly.

Therefore, sometimes data centre experience could be de prioritised due to the skills shortage. The way to achieve this is through expanding the net of recruitment. This would include those with less experience.

However, this will only occur if appropriate time is invested in their progression.

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