Nurturing the next generation
To plug the gap, many data center and cloud companies have joined forces with academic institutions to develop training courses.
In the UK, University Technical College (UTC) Heathrow teamed up with leading data center organizations to design a curriculum that prepares students for a career within the digital infrastructure industry.
In Singapore, technology giant Microsoft partnered with the Institute of Technical Education to set up its first academy in Asia teaching applied data center skills. Last year, social media giant Meta also launched new upskilling initiatives in the city-state to empower Singaporeans for digital jobs of the future.
Besides addressing the gap, there’s also a strategic market angle to nurturing talent, according to Duncan.
“It’s in the interest of companies to train up a critical mass of skilled technical professionals well-versed in a particular proprietary technology,” he says. “They can gain an edge over competitors if they’re able to provide adequate skilled support for their solutions.”
A ready pool of available talent is not only attractive to the market, but also good for the workers who will be equipped with technical skills that are transferable between companies, Duncan adds.
Despite the proliferation of such programs, data center development and the advancement of adjacent technologies continue to outpace the rate of upskilling, leaving operators to jostle for skilled talent in the short term.
Addressing the labor shortage
Data from Uptime Institute indicates that the two-million-strong talent pool in the data center industry is on track to grow to 2.3 million by next year.
In the meantime, though, alternative solutions are urgently needed. “Many operators are resorting to engaging external services firms with data center practices like JLL to staff and run these facilities in the interim,” Duncan says.
But the emergence of technologies, including AI applications, could complicate the labor shortage since the types of specialized skillsets in short supply may change quickly, he warns.
“What was needed last year may differ from now because there are peaks and troughs in terms of skills demand whenever new technologies are launched,” says Duncan. “The advancements in AI, for instance, could profoundly alter the nature and the areas of skill shortage as we know it.”