The growing demand for data and cloud computing has led to a boom in demand for data centers in Australia as in many other places across the world. Australian data centres also share with those elsewhere the challenge of a skills gap. This has been a challenge recognised pretty much since data centres grew in numbers and importance, but it remains. Has the industry done enough to attract and retain key staff? How to make data centres a career focus for students in the Internet-driven world?
End-2022 studies from Equinix and the Australian Industry Group confirm that the shortage of necessary skills is an issue of considerable concern to the IT industry and beyond. A report from the Uptime Institute (Management and Operations Survey, 2022) indicates that staffing has overtaken sustainability as the top M&O concern, 54% to 46%.
A lot of the commentary around the ‘shortage of with an inevitability and even a sense that this situation will always be with us. Go back 10 years and there are a raft of similar headlines and similar survey findings and a similar situation – the grouping together of a number of local shortages for different skill sets with different levels of shortage. So what has happened, or hasn’t happened, since then?
Skills is a different resource proposition than the other resources on which data centres depend – power, water, materials, equipment, money etc. The people resource is further from industry control than most others. Studies of career decision making in Australia indicate those with greater commitment to a particular career path will develop their intention earlier. This means career intention may be formed well before the data centre comes into view as a possible option.
So, the industry continues to get older. An ongoing multi-country study across a number of APAC markets indicates that 40% of respondents have worked in the industry for more than 10 years; 95% believe that the industry should do far more to appeal to young people and 89% have to explain to people they know what a data centre is.
Does the skills situation confirm that the data centre industry does not match its expertise in engineering and tech with the “soft skills” required to attract and retain its people? Possibly, although the dedication to keeping data centres going during the pandemic indicated strong loyalty and purpose. It is more likely that the industry’s identity may be failing to move beyond its solid B2B foundation into the world of communicating career opportunities to younger targets. In a world increasingly dominated by marketing and brands, what may be missing is the data centre ‘brand’?
For the live discussion on Will the ‘Skills Shortage’ always be with us?, join us on May 4th 2023 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre featuring John Duffin, Chartered Engineer, Instructor; Gareth Johnston, Director – Data Centre Recruitment; Chris Molloy, Founder, Digital Infrastructure Associates and Adam Gibson, Global Head of DC Partnerships, Console Connect. To register, please visit: https://w.media/events/melbourne-cloud-datacenter-convention-2023/