Power has been the overriding issue in the global data center industry for the past couple of years. Unsurprising, considering the concerns regarding increasing cost, lack of availability and growing awareness of environmental impact. What is surprising, however, is the lack of attention given to an issue causing almost as much concern for owners and operators – the global skills shortage. (See the DatacenterDynamics Industry Census results for 2012.)
The Census shows that more than 60% of operators have huge concerns about a lack of suitably qualified staff to maintain their facilities.
The Data Center Salary whitepaper researched and written by DCD Intelligence on behalf of specialist recruiter DataCenterPeople highlights the increasing reliance by businesses on IT infrastructure, in particular data centers. Coupled with a limited number people with the experience and qualifications necessary at the higher levels of the industry, this has led to an almost recession-proof growth in salary levels worldwide, especially in the more well-established markets.
This may be good news for employees but this rise in salary is adding to the increasing problem of operational costs, identified as another major concern for owners and operators.
If we look at DCD Intelligence figures for the US, there has been a 14.1% increase in average salary over the past 12 months with the average salary rising from US$96,500 to $110,000.
The rise in salary levels above inflation rates highlights problems inherent in recruiting and retaining suitably qualified personnel, especially where higher levels of experience are required.
Research shows there is a large body of very experienced people who have been in the industry since its early days but are now at retirement age. In contrast to other industries, there isn’t the manpower lower down the ladder to fill these more senior -level positions.
Long term, this is a big issue for owners and operators. Without a ready supply of suitably experienced or qualified staff, wages will continue to rise in line with the economics of supply and demand and in more extreme cases, there simply won’t be the people available to run the number of facilities necessary for a digital economy.
Average Salary per Region
Part of this issue stems from a lack of graduate-level education specifically geared towards a career in the industry. Considering the industry’s size and financial worth, it is astonishing that universities and other institutions offering tertiary education are not offering courses specifically aimed at those wishing to pursue a career in data centers.
There are indications that this may change. For example, in the UK, Leeds University has made headway in directing some of its postgraduate engineering students towards dissertations specific to data centers and has engaged industry experts such as Prof Ian Bitterlin and Robert Tozer to help students. There are also plans to offer a specific masters degree in data center design.
According to Dr Jon Summers of the University of Leeds, the University has recently brought data center engineering into its engineering undergraduate curriculum with the development of industry-mentored projects looking at aspects of designing data centers for different climates. Universities in the US have also begun investigating similar options.
Eventually we may begin to see a pool of suitably qualified graduates taking up positions in the industry but what happens in the meantime? According to the training and recruitment manager of a global data center organization companies need to build mandatory training into corporate strategy. Data center-specific courses such as those offered by DC Professional and vendor-specific training can fill a knowledge gap and help ensure a well-qualified team with the skills necessary to run a mission-critical facility, be that on the facilities, real estate or IT side.
Download the full data center salary whitepaper here.