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The data centre skills shortage and how to rectify it

The data centre skills shortage and how to rectify it

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The skills shortage across the data centre space has long been considered one of the biggest challenges for the industry. Adelle Desouza – DCA Advisory Board and Founder HireHigher, offers her best practice advice for taking action to close the skills gap, whilst introducing The Rising Stars Programme of which The DCA is a supporting force.

When it comes to the talent shortage, the data centre industry needs to transition from talking to taking action. However, there is something preventing the industry from doing so and I can’t seem to place my finger on it.

Firstly, I question whether we actually like being a ‘well-kept secret’ at an exclusive ‘invite only’ party – and whether this boosts our ego? Or is it the fact that the ‘old boys network’ helps to keep our jobs safe? It’s ok to explore this angle, because of course, there is the downside to exposing our industry to the masses. Simple supply and demand economics – maybe it’s the fear that with so much talent we will be questioned, compared or worst of all ousted. The cost of living is no joke and while we must help those who seek to get on the ladder, we know and read things like, ‘In mature data centre markets, such as North America and Western Europe, much of the existing workforce is aging and many professionals expect to retire around the same time, leaving data centres with a shortfall on both headcount and experience’. Is it really something we can add to our plate? Our small pool of talent keeps salaries high for those of us who made the right choice all those years ago. We have mortgages to pay, mouths to feed and a career to protect, so on this occasion perhaps a call to arms to fight the war for talent is just one that suits us or our individual needs.

Alternatively, does it fall to the inherent fact that quite frankly it’s the role of the HR teams – each of us ‘like’, ‘comment’ and ‘share’ what we choose to on socials but really it comes down to the people and talent team. What will happen when you need to recruit in your own team? Many employers are not drafting a job description with realistic expectations, whether it’s multiple years of experience required for entry-level roles, or at times arbitrary inclusions i.e., ‘Degree preferred’. Our unconscious biases creep in when we draft job descriptions and there is no doubt that our talent teams know better, so if it’s solely their role to find a solution to the talent shortage then why do we simultaneously reject their feedback when they tell us the market has changed? We must amend our expectations when it comes to recruitment. In fact, in the recent Uptime Institute report on the global data centre market, it stated: ‘The most successful employers in the sector take multiple steps to attract and retain top talent, including revisiting advertised job requirements, implementing training and mentoring programmes and ensuring adequate diversity efforts’.

I am not saying that the two suggestions above are factual, nor am I saying that they are the reasons as to why we have failed to make progress in this space, I am merely showing you the darker side of what it looks like. We can all don the corporate tone of the bottom line, dividends, EBITDA, whatever metric you want to include but the reality is that diverse talent contributes to every single one of those metrics in abundance, not to mention it will help provide a level of futureproofing not just for individual organisations but for the industry as a whole.

Now my final thought as to why we haven’t made the change is far less cynical and more akin to the fact that it’s actually very difficult to know what to do when the problem is so widespread and multi-layered. At times, fixing the situation seems comparable with boiling the ocean. Much like disillusioned voters wondering what difference their vote will make, it is easy to see how industry players could feel the same. Having one scheme in one company doesn’t address our issue and while plausible for some to have schemes with teams and coordinators, this is not the case for all.

To ensure this article is not all doom and gloom and presenting more problems than solutions, it is vital that we introduce The Rising Stars Programme. 

The DCA is proud to be the supporting force of The Rising Star Programme, built by HireHigher and dedicated to addressing the problems faced by the industry with regards to attraction, acquisition and retention of talent. The initiatives put together under the programme all support the feedback gathered first-hand from not only data centre professionals, but millennials and Gen-Z both from within and outside of the industry. From initiatives to recognition, mentoring to brand campaigns, change is on the horizon. However, just as the responsibility doesn’t lie with one organisation, The Rising Star Programme requires pledged support from organisations across the industry who want to drive change and who accept action must be taken.

While I would never ask you to publicly declare your reasons for inertia in this space, I would ask you to question how you can do more; and if you can’t do it yourself then reach out to those who do know how to help. Be aware that the resource is not funded by the ‘feel good fairies’ – if we really want to make a change, we will need expertise.

We can either continue to talk, or we can make tangible investments and commitments to ensuring that 2022 and beyond is the era in which the data centre industry positions itself as the career industry of choice for talent.

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