Training Generation Z. The industry is yet to fully address the talent shortage as a collective

When it comes to the discussion of appealing to today’s millennial workforce in the data centre sector, it appears that the industry is yet to fully address the talent shortage as a collective.

The toss-up between a crippling £9,250 per year fee in a British university or an Apprenticeship where the individual gets paid is seeming like less of a hard decision to make as tech companies across the world level up on programmes and trainee schemes for the generation that is due to get their foot through the workplace doors.

But is the industry doing enough?

Ben Chappell, Apprentice Consultant at Business Critical Solutions (BCS) thinks that there is always room for companies to do more, help more and offer more.

“The digital infrastructure sector has longevity, which was a key factor for me when I decided to apply for an Apprenticeship. However, more Apprenticeships are needed.”

Chappell explains that nowadays those who want to enter the industry have the option of getting a degree and getting the experience from an apprenticeship, but the rate in which companies are offering such opportunities needs to increase as the one suggestion for areas of improvement in the sector.

“I go to Southbank University, and I started the Apprenticeship around two months ago. It is great that I can do both and gain the necessary experience first hand while I learn. I get to go to the site and get some hands-on experience, I get to be trained by people who are already in the industry and I get to see how it all works.”

University is respected for the depth of knowledge and transferrable skills it provides, while apprenticeships are valued for their practical nature and real-life work experience opportunities. The possibility of doing both simultaneously sounds like the ideal recipe for a top-notch workforce.

“There is a widely acknowledged skills shortage in the datacentre industry and we feel strongly that companies should do their bit to help alleviate this,” says Chris Coward, Senior Consultant at BCS. “It also makes good business sense as we are able to find the best people.”


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Chappell applied for the BCS Apprenticeship scheme which received over 200 applicants. Chappell was chosen alongside Dan Sheehan and Asim Mahmood for the scheme which offers three fully funded placements as part of its growth strategy in partnership with Southbank and Sheffield Hallam University. The digital infrastructure firm plans to expand the number of places it offers, as well as work with other universities in the UK including Salford, Reading, Kingston and Nottingham Trent.

“I want to invest in others the way they have invested in me, and I would advise young people like myself who are looking to get into the industry to do their research, seek advice from those already in the industry and get a mentor if possible,” adds Chappell.

He also adds that the mission-critical industry is thriving which makes the prospects of entering the sector very promising. With digital transformation creating copious amounts of opportunities and job roles, the added bonus of studying while gaining the correct level of experience is a massive step in the right direction in the race to engage as many talented individuals to bridge the workforce gap in the industry.

Contribution from the Industry

Equinix, one of the largest growing data centre operators opened up a data centre Technician Apprenticeship this year, and recruited an apprentice to join its team, offering the individual exposure to critical infrastructure and data centre activities, in addition to a once a week college course over a period of two years to obtain the qualification. The kind of experience the scheme offered included troubleshooting, installations, copper and fibre cross-connects and media back-ups.

Networking hardware company Cisco offers its apprentices the chance to get involved with technology as it evolves and develops, meet hundreds of Cisco employees, build contacts, and learn from the experts, as well as partner with international brands to solve business problems. The scheme also allows its participants to manage projects to deliver on contracts with customers, communicate with stakeholders, meet deadlines, design, test, and deploy the company’s technology, as well as learn the engineering behind it in order to break and fix it.

CNet Training launched the first network infrastructure Apprenticeship across England and Wales, which offers individuals the opportunity to acquire the knowledge to enable them to complete both copper and fibre cable installation projects and demonstrate the highest levels of skills and expertise in network cabling infrastructures. It is relevant to new entrants to the cabling industry in addition to those already working within the cable installation environment wishing to improve their skills.

The Polls are in

Generation Z – the age group that roughly encompasses individuals born between 1997 and 2015 – has arrived, and Chappell stresses that it is about time organisations started taking notice.

“We are the future workforce and as employers require job applicants to have experience to get the job, Apprenticeships are something organisations should be focusing on to combat the talent and skills shortage.”

In the UK, this year alone, there has been a total of 19,600 Apprenticeship service accounts registered, and 219,800 commitments had been recorded for the 2018/19 academic year.

With many seasoned data centre employees reaching retirement age in an industry that doubles in size every four years, data centre staffing needs aren’t going away any time soon, no matter how much machine learning is deployed.

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