Updated: Jul 8, 2022
As the digital factories of today, data centres have been completely open during the past 12 months as a significant portion of our lives shifted to an online world. In what has been a challenging time for many industries, the data industry and supporting centres have been one of the few to see growth. A Host in Ireland survey with a sample of 50 Irish data centre leaders found 96% are optimistic about business opportunities within the data centre and hosting service industry this year. With reliance on data set to continue beyond pandemic lockdowns, the data centre ecosystem is going to see growing demand for its workforce around the world.
An Immense Growth of Data Centre Jobs and the Resulting Challenges
The Uptime Institute recently published its first Global Data Center Staffing Forecast 2021-2025 report. Noting that data centre capacity is expanding in historic proportions across every geographic region, data centre operators of all sizes are increasingly concerned about the availability of staff and skill sets required for that growth. Uptime predicts there will be a net staff growth of more than 300,000 data centre jobs by 2025, with the vast majority required for technical operations.
One of the challenges comes from the fact that data centre technical staff are difficult to recruit. Part of this is due to the relative newness of the industry that isn’t always fully understood, but also in recruiting practices. As Rhonda Ascierto, VP of research at the Uptime Institute, told Data Centre Dynamics, "You can work in this sector without a four-year degree and be really successful. Companies should take a long hard look at their minimum requirements. Data centres tell us they cannot find qualified candidates for jobs - but if they dropped that word ‘qualified, what would happen?"
Another layer of complexity comes from the likelihood that large numbers of employees are due to retire in the next 10 years. Forty-five percent of current data centre employees have been in the industry for 20+ years. This could lead to a “silver tsunami”, as the Uptime Institute phrased it, causing an additional surge in demand, particularly for more senior roles. My own informal LinkedIn poll confirmed this with 57% of respondents saying they’ve been in the industry for more than 10 years.
The Raising Importance of Apprenticeships
Apprenticeships are helping ICT businesses build the workforce they need in a timely and cost-effective manner. Mechanical and electrical engineers in strategy and operations roles, and all types of controls and monitoring employees, are going to be the technical staff increasingly needed through 2025 and beyond. While there will always be roles that require university or college degrees, there are many positions that can be done with technical trade school certifications or on-the-job experience.
On a national level, SOLAS manages a range of further education and training programmes and many Host in Ireland partners do the same. In these apprenticeship programmes, apprentices spend 2-4 years of training in a variety of different sectors across the business. The company benefits from having ready access to a skilled workforce with a bespoke set of skills attuned to their business. The employees benefit by ensuring they are up-skilled in the latest technical developments associated with their trade. It’s a win-win for all involved.
Let's be creative!
Taking all of these elements into account, it’s time once again for the data centre industry to be brave, creative and relentless to meet this challenge. As our dependence on data grows, so too does our need for data centres and the people who make the magic happen. The “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset is not going to help attract, retain and develop the talent for an industry where some of the jobs may not have even been created yet. The more investment, training and creative approaches to employment we implement today, the more we will reap the benefits and define the success of the industry in years to come. Now, let's stop talking and go find solutions!
Host In Ireland Founder & President
In this video Garry Connolly speaks on the optimistic job situation in the data centres. Garry also appeals to the educational institutions to join forces with the industry to build curriculums crafted for the future demands.