The Shortage of Data Center Talent and Bridging the Gap

The Shortage of Data Center Talent and Bridging the Gap

The first item to address is the shortage of talented candidates in this industry. The second is the lack of diversity. The third is the lack of direction on how candidates can get into the data center space. You can’t have diversity when there is a shortage of qualified talent. However, you can have diversity when the labor pool is robust with qualified candidates. This is not the case as this industry must go through a paradigm shift on harvesting talent in this marketplace. It has to happen as early as middle school when young minds are being formed. As a headhunter, that is an expert in recruiting in the data center facilities space, having this issue is a good thing, because a shortage of talent means that there will be a steady demand for services for my company (just stating the obvious).

That being said, do I have any ideas that can help in this highly difficult topic?  

I was at DCW last week in San Antonio and I spoke with some Google recruiters. They opened me up to some new ideas on how to diversify my recruiting tactics (thank you Bridget). Change must happen, but how? Government subsidies should be a focus on providing funding to technical schools as a college degree is not always necessary in the Data Center Facilities Space. How does one get into the data center market? The roadmaps are clear in some areas, but not in all. A degreed EE or ME might go the engineering consulting route while working with a firm that specializes in data centers. A Navy Nuke (EMN, ETN, MMN) can go after commissioning, construction, or facilities operations. In my firm’s 11 years of experience focusing on the operations side of data center recruiting, we hire many qualified candidates who have come up through the ranks as entry level field technicians, building engineers and our military. 

We need to show prospective candidates the roadmap to the many paths on how one can get into the data center market if they are not a degreed engineer or in the military with a focus in power or mechanical systems as this is the main issue that we as an industry must map out.

Many of our candidates have a background in power and hvac cooling and have started their careers in solid but less expensive trade / technical schools (Devry / ITT / Lincoln Tech)  that teach the basics of electrical power, cooling systems and the growing demand for expertise in building controls systems. We need companies to take these qualified candidates / students and offer entry level programs / apprenticeships / internships that will allow them to grow into careers with more responsibilities and opportunity.

I’m actively involved locally through 7×24, AFCOM and iMasons who have been steadily pushing for scholarships, promoting the industry as a whole while pushing diversity. Data Center companies are also becoming more proactive in their local communities to make workers aware of our often overlooked industry. Conventional wisdom would have many of us believe that the technical nature of the data center industry requires a college degree in Engineering and other technical degrees to qualify for jobs.  In 2017, less than 10% of the jobs we placed candidates with required a college degree. This 10% is primarily made up of Mechanical Engineers, Electrical Engineers, and Executive Level candidates.  A college degree is expensive. I’m not saying don’t go to college, but what I am saying is that there are other ways of getting into this industry without going into heavy debt. Expensive schooling can knock out diverse candidates. There are lower priced training / education options that many are unaware of.

Pkaza is a big fan of the Mike Rowe (from Dirty jobs) philosophy which says not every individual is cut out or even wants to go to a university. Some people are geared to work with their hands as we are all created differently.  Let’s bring shop class back to high school with focus on electrical and mechanical trades and put more emphasis and capital towards technical schools.  This is an easy start without having to reinvent the wheel.  

Peter Kazella  / peter@pkaza.com

Here are some links that can be useful to the point I am trying to make:

https://ngcproject.org/statistics

https://www.asee.org/papers-and-publications/publications/college-profiles/15EngineeringbytheNumbersPart1.pdf

https://nsf.gov/statistics/2016/nsb20161/#/

http://profoundlydisconnected.com/