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THE BIG DATA CENTRE SKILLS SHORTAGE: WHAT'S THE ANSWER?

Author: Harry Farlow

Published date: 2020/07

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Even before the global COVID-19 outbreak, demand for information storage was increasing at a rapid rate. In fact, a 2019 survey by BCS found that over 90 per cent of developers had already planned to grow data centre capacity over the next 12 months. 

Now, the pandemic has seen internet usage increase between 50 and 70 per cent, with tech giants Facebook, Microsoft and Google experiencing cloud services growth in regions that enforced social distancing and remote working. Microsoft Teams alone saw its active daily users rise from 20 million to 75 million from November 2019 to April 2020.  

With businesses requiring rapid expansion of their cloud capacity, data centres across the globe have faced unprecedented demand. So much so, that data centre workers were included on the key worker list published by Cabinet Office and the Department for Education in March.

But there’s a problem...

While increased demand for any sector during a time of economic uncertainty is a good thing, data centre talent remains scarce. Recent data from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Learning revealed that skills shortages cost businesses £1.5 billion per year, with an estimated shortfall of 173,000 skilled workers annually across STEM industries, including data centre and IT engineering. 

According to Dr Theresa Simpkin, higher and further education principal at CNet Training, data centre engineering has been a victim of its own success as it’s grown at a phenomenal rate but as a hybrid sector, combining IT, engineering and facilities management. 

“When you create a new sector from those core sectors, you are importing those issues,” says Simpkin. “Data centre engineering is still a very young sector - it has experienced the same sort of growth and journey to maturity that has taken more traditional industries centuries...We are also standing in line behind a raft of other traditional, well-known industries. They have been out there shaking the candidate tree for decades and they have a very well-crafted employer brand and offering.” 

While organisations such as STEM Learning works with schools and colleges to encourage further learning in this field, how can skills shortages be tackled right now when demand is at its highest?

Transition to the data centre? 

Now more than ever, professionals across a range of fields are being asked to consider a career in data centre management. The aforementioned hybrid nature of the sector means there are a plethora of transferable skills from other industries. Electrical and mechanical engineers, nuclear engineers and those used to working in fast-paced, pressurised environments, like healthcare or FMCG, make for great data centre technicians due to their acute understanding of mission criticality. 

Not only does a data centre career typically boast high salaries due to the requirement for mid- to senior-level professionals, but it takes place in a sterile environment with few people, meaning it’s one of the safest workplaces outside of the home right now. Additionally, there are great opportunities for career progression thanks to the sector’s rapid growth and continual movement in line with evolving technology. 

Take the next step

Right now, PRS clients are looking for experienced candidates with the transferable skills to help manage and grow their data centres. Typical data centre roles we recruit for have included:  

  • Contract Manager 

  • Shift Supervisor 

  • Shift Engineer 

  • Shift Technician

Interested in making the move to the data centre? Need talent for your centre? Contact our specialist Harry Farlow on 0207 553 5673or email harry.farlow@prsjobs.com or complete the form below.