“People don't necessarily make the link between the value that you get from training; that it's not just teaching someone to do a particular thing. The strength of your company is in the people,” says Sophia Flucker, director of operational intelligence and an experienced DCPro instructor.
We all know there is a massive skills shortage in the data center industry, but when it comes to resolving this problem, it can be difficult to sort cause from effect. Is it the lack of training available - or the lack of people looking to get their employees trained?
“It depends on the organization. A lot of people recognize that there's a problem in that they have positions that they want to fill, they're looking for people with a certain amount of experience, and they can't find them. In many cases, people recognize the link between training and investing in people.”
“In the UK, the landscape of universities and further education is difficult: there are challenges around the amount of investment it takes to make a course. But, I think a lot of training that is relevant to people is not necessarily academic-university training. There's a whole heap of people who probably need something more short-term and practical.”
Ultimately, people in the data center industry are mutually aware of this shortage. They understand the global reliance on qualified workers and the necessity for solid training resources and opportunities to invest in. Perhaps, the shortage is therefore due to a lack of fresh meat.
So, how can the industry increase awareness of a seemingly hidden industry?
“Things are changing, and it's probably because there are some very big brands associated with data centers. Everyone has an Amazon account, people are using social media, people are using online banking. If a bank’s data center goes down, then that makes the news.”
And there is, as the famous saying goes, no such thing as bad publicity.
While a data center shutting down is not necessarily a desirable image, it perhaps matters more that it creates an image in mainstream media, and can help increase visibility to people who may not see a space in the data center industry for themselves. Most obviously, perhaps, women.
“If you have a skill shortage, you don't want to be putting up barriers to minorities. You really need to attract everyone, because you need the people with the skills. You wouldn't want to say only people from a certain group with the skills are welcome. But that's a bigger question. That's not just data centers and engineering, I think it applies to all STEM subjects. There's still this legacy where certain things are seen as being jobs for men or jobs for women.
“We should be starting with very young children, starting at pre-school age, trying not to say ‘this is for girls, this is for boys’, but making things open and really giving everyone the opportunity to play to their strengths.”
DCPro is helping to train future data center workers, one person at a time. But perhaps the industry needs to start shouting a bit louder about its achievements - to become a part of mainstream consciousness.
In this case, the ‘egg’ of the cycle, seems to be the lack of awareness. It is a slow process, but it is improving. Hopefully, as global reliance on data continues to grow, it will become an industry impossible to hide from.
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