CNet Training’s President and CEO, Andrew Stevens, discusses how the data centre industry can work to tackle the skills shortage and future protect their organisations by engaging more with education.
Earlier this year, I worked alongside the Edge Foundation where I have been a Trustee since 2015, to create an Employer Engagement Guide to help employers from all sectors build their engagement with education.
There are a lot of sectors facing skills shortages and the data centre industry is no exception. Demand keeps on growing. As an industry, we are already struggling to find new talent to fill vacant roles and this issue is only going to worsen as demand grows further across the globe. The temptation is to try and fill skills gaps quickly by attracting talent from neighbouring businesses or sectors. That seems to solve the short-term problem, but it creates a merry-go-round of challenges and escalating costs across the labour market.
Organisations need to be working harder to bring new people into the industry in order to inspire a new generation and thus make more people aware of what a data centre is and the vast array of career paths and opportunities that this fantastic industry has to offer. Organisations need to not just be looking at quick short-term fixes, but instead looking to education and engaging with students in schools from as young as the age of five. Organisations need to start introducing the digital infrastructure industry into schools and onto the curriculum alongside developing creative ways to bring Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills to life in the classroom. This is something that the industry needs to work hard at over the next 10-15 years in order to make a real difference.
I want engagement in education to become the next sustainability for employers – working together towards a long-term shared goal that drives collaboration and provides a very valuable economic and social return.
I have put together a list of the top 10 opportunities that can be applied to the digital infrastructure industry. These points are designed to help organisations across the data centre industry engage further with learners aged five years old through to 16+. These points will help build a pipeline of skilled young people ready to fill the gaps needed from the increased demand alongside recent reports, stating that up to 50% of existing staff across the data centre industry are looking to retire within the next five years.
From five years old:
1. Offer a teacher/tutor externship
Teachers must be given the opportunity to learn first-hand what the industry is about, the vast array of job opportunities it can create and what skills may be required. We need it to become the norm in the same way as it is for other industries, for example, plumbing, construction, electrical – most people have some understanding of the training required to have a career in these industries and can point learners in the right direction. An externship is an excellent opportunity for teachers/tutors to visit an organisation for a few days and observe how their subject is applicable in the workplace, then use that experience to inspire their students.
2. Inspire a real-life project
Schools, colleges and universities are increasingly open to working with employers to add real-life context for learners of any ages. Project-based learning is a fantastic way for individuals to become aware of the data centre industry. It gives learners industry experience and helps them to develop skills that will make them highly desirable when it comes to looking for employment.
3. Offer a workplace visit
This could either be an in-person or an engaging virtual tour of a data centre with the opportunities for learners to talk to people working in the industry and asking them questions about their role.
4. Provide a career/apprenticeship talk
How did you get inspired to pursue your role? Organisations could be that source of inspiration for young people by giving a careers or apprenticeship talks; opening their eyes to the sector that they may not have otherwise known existed.
5. Work with local careers leads on bespoke opportunities
Certain education institutions may be in close proximity to a digital infrastructure hub, for example, Slough in the UK, which houses many of the global data centre providers. These organisations may benefit from getting in touch directly with the local schools, colleges and universities to introduce themselves and see what specific things they can do to work together, especially as these areas are perfect for finding local skilled talent to join the organisation in the future.
From 11 years old:
6. Become an Enterprise Adviser
As an Enterprise Advisor, you will work directly with a school or college’s senior leadership team at a strategic level – for around eight hours per month. You can be involved in helping to shape the careers programme using your strategic skills and business network to create opportunities with local employers and inspire students.
7. Exhibit at a careers fair
Careers fairs (both physical and virtual) give young people a chance to get to know a wide range of employers and industries in a short space of time. It’s the perfect opportunity to be put right in front of the future talent and be able to talk first-hand about what a career might look like for them and what skills they would need.
8. Offer a work experience placement
Work experience placements are typically one to two weeks or they can be a day or two over several weeks, or even offered as a remote working placement. This can be arranged directly with your local education organisation. To make the most of it, you can plan a short project for the student(s) to work on during the placement.
From 16 years old:
9. Offer an internship
Internships give young people first-hand experience of the industry and offer them a chance to meet other employees and learn about the wide array of career paths available to them. It provides young people with the opportunity to work within an organisation on real and engaging projects with support and mentoring from a member of the team.
10. Become an industry tutor
Industry leaders need to be directly involved with engaging with young people, sharing their skills and experiences and hopefully inspiring others to consider a career within the industry.Click below to share this article