The data center industry is facing a skills shortage and it is only set to get worse.

Recent stats suggest that half of existing engineering staff will retire by 2025. With businesses struggling to find the right candidates, now more than ever, organizations need to get smart on ways to both maintain their current workforce and help grow their talent pool for the future. But the solution stretches far beyond just traditional recruitment and upskilling strategies. So, what fresh techniques and perspectives can organizations within the data center industry employ to combat this ongoing skills shortage?

Looking for talent in new places

The majority of the current talent within the sector is of a generation that doesn’t accurately represent the industry that we work in now. The industry needs to recognize the need for evolution and accept that it needs to start looking for candidates that possess comparable skills in other sectors, beyond the data center industry itself.

Companies need to take a long hard look at their criteria for candidates and reframe their requirements and qualifications to honour candidates that possess the specialized skill set of being able to think, prepare and understand the nuanced product knowledge that goes into making an exceptional data center engineer.

By understanding the key skill sets required of a data center engineer, organizations can then map those skills to other industry professionals and make correlations. For example, fault finding and being a solutions-oriented thinker are key skill sets required for being a data center engineer. However, these skill sets aren’t only applicable to the data center industry and are found in sectors ranging from engineering disciplines including petrochemical, nuclear, aviation and the military, for example.

Another important step that data center industry professionals need to take is to pull back the curtain and be better at promoting real world examples of the work that really goes on in the sector. By sharing stories that unveil what a day in the life looks like, customer relationships, common challenges, etc. people’s perception of the industry will change and companies therefore will be able to increase their talent pool considerably.

Investing in your people

With the volume of enterprise data continuing to grow in the cloud, exacerbated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a strong workforce is vital to supporting today’s customers and society alike and responding to their ever-growing needs.

From the employee's perspective, the way in which they work has already been turned on its head and transformed by cloud, artificial intelligence and other augmented technologies. Humans will never be replaced, despite the disruption of these innovative technologies, however we do need to adapt quickly and get smart on how to use these technologies to optimie productivity and drive efficiencies.

To make this happen and to compete in today’s workforce, organizations need to take responsibility and make sure that they are giving their employees all of the best tools, education and opportunities to best equip them for success in their roles. Empowering your workforce and making sure they understand their value to the bigger business is vital. Employees are an organiszation’s greatest asset and investing in your people should be a no brainer.

Fostering young talent

With STEM graduates in higher demand than ever, and millennials and Gen Z people growing up amidst technology titans such as Facebook/Instagram, Google, Twitter and Apple, companies are having to fight even harder to stand out in the jobs market and attract new talent away from these bigger, “cooler” brands.

To attract top talent, the data center industry needs to shift its focus to grabbing the attention of today’s students and helping them understand the important transferable skills that STEM can lend to landing and developing a successful career in the data center industry.

It’s time for the industry to foster a more inclusive workforce. Of note, the lack of gender diversity is causing long-term harm to the sector. To secure the next generation of skilled professionals, it’s critical that the industry is doing more to inspire young people, especially young women, to take up STEM subjects from an early age. From engaging students and raising awareness of all the exciting career paths in STEM to creating mentor programmes to support women in a male-dominated industry, the industry has a considerable role to play.

Initiatives like the United Nations’ World Youth Skills Day are seeking to overcome these obstacles and raise awareness of the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

There is no doubt that we will continue to move to even a more digitalized world. But the one constant to anchor all of this guaranteed change should be ensuring that your workforce is skilled for the problems of today and for tomorrow.

Get a monthly roundup of Workforce & Skills news, direct to your inbox.