Data Centre Industry Tackle Skills Shortage

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Revelations in the London Evening Standard last September showed that for every graduate post in the UK’s capital there were at least 73 applicants – with an estimated 20,000 graduates in the UK still out of work six months after completing their degrees. Perversely, claims industry body the Data Centre Alliance (DCA), data centre operators are having real difficulties finding suitable new employees for positions in what is possibly the least known but fastest growing area of the economy.

After wide-ranging discussion in the data centre industry and academia, including the University of East London and Leeds University – both of which specialise in education in the data centre and IT sectors – DCA has devised a Data Centre “boot camp”. This will comprise data centre training and suitability assessment – which aims to give graduates the additional knowledge they need to successfully apply for data centre related jobs.

Additionally, it is anticipated that those who make it through the tough selection and assessment process will be ideally pre-selected candidates for interview by the data centre operators.

Rob Coupland, UK Managing Director of pan-European data centre operator TelecityGroup, one of the sponsors of the pilot DCA Boot Camp, said “Due to the specialised nature of the skill-set required in the data centre industry there is a limited pool of exceptional workers out there and, up until now, there have been no graduate programmes  specific to the skills required. Only through the on-going development of IT skills will we be able to continue to deliver the level of service our customers expect. This reflects the critical importance of the role of the data centre manager and engineer in today’s data centre industry.”

Andrew Fray UK Director for DCA boot camp co-sponsor Telehouse, which operates four data centres in the UK and 45 worldwide added: “I have been looking forward to an opportunity like this, since proposing the concept of a Data Centre Training College in East London as long ago as 2009.  We believe that today few are given the opportunity to train for work in data centres; somehow they learn their craft on-the-job.

“Telehouse is supporting the Pilot DCA boot camp because we believe  that its rigorous pre-selection allied to a no-nonsense weeding-out process, plus the imparting of essential sector knowledge, will lead to a supply of potential employees who are well positioned to become data centre professionals in London..”

The DCA Data Centre boot camp is free to successful applicants thanks to the sponsorship of data centre operators Telehouse and TelecityGroup plus international data centre training specialists CNet Training, who will deliver the course alongside officers from DCA and lecturers from University of East London.

“The boot camp students will learn many of the well-hidden secrets of the data centre industry,” said Simon Campbell-White DCA executive director, “many of the students will be amazed to find out just how many things in their lives require a data centre to make them happen – everything from their Facebook status updates, tweets and e-mails to holiday bookings, traffic lights and parcel deliveries. They will also learn how data centres fit into the world economy as massive ‘factories’ often the size of a dozen or more football pitches – and each consuming as much energy as a small city.”

Andrew Stevens, CEO of CNet Training added, “Once the candidates understand the place of data centres in the world economy we’ll  introduce them to a new discipline of ‘critical thinking’ – similar to that taught in the nuclear and airline industries. Because if they can’t do the joined-up thinking necessary to avoid major data centre outages, like we’ve seen in recent years, then they don’t belong in our industry.

“Every minute that a data centre is out of action can affect millions of people and cost literally £billions – so it’s essential that guarding against outages becomes part of every data centre professionals’ DNA. Our training will provide an in-depth technical introduction to the elements associated with efficient operation and maintenance of a data centre and will help open the students’ eyes with regard to the technical career opportunities that could be available to them within this vibrant and fast moving sector.”

Rounding up, Campbell-Whyte, said, “DCA is not itself a training organisation which is why we have joined forces with CNet Training and University of East London for this pilot Boot Camp. The mission of DCA is to research and develop best-practice for the benefit of its members and the data centre industry globally.”

Membership of the Data Centre Alliance – where members are expected to share as well as receive best practice knowledge – is open globally to data centre operators, suppliers and individual data centre professionals.

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