Data-center training, recruitment changes needed to avoid staff shortages

Data-center managers need to raise the profile of available job roles and rethink hiring tactics, say executives from Google Data Centers and Compass Datacenters.

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As demand for data-center capacity has surged, owners and operators are struggling to keep pace on the employee side. Improved outreach, more creative approaches to recruitment, and better training and education opportunities are needed to ensure the data-centers can meet the "astronomical anticipated demand" for skilled people, said Rhonda Ascierto, vice president of research at Uptime Institute.

The research firm's newly released Global Data Center Staffing Forecast reveals concern about the volume of open jobs and hard-to-find skills. In 2020, 50% of data-center owners and operators reported having difficulty finding qualified candidates for open jobs, compared to 38% in 2018. Meanwhile, demand for data-center staff is forecast to grow globally from about 2 million full-time employees in 2019 to nearly 2.3 million by 2025, Uptime Institute reports.

"Data centers need more people. We have a big challenge ahead of us to keep up with this scale of growth," Ascierto said.

Adding to hiring concerns is the age of the existing data-center workforce. In the U.S. and Western Europe, in particular, many employees are reaching retirement, putting additional pressure on senior-level roles. This "silver tsunami" effect may last for the coming decade, Uptime says.

Industry watchers have suggested that technologies to manage and operate facilities more efficiently, such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI), might alleviate staffing demand, but Uptime's data says it isn't likely to happen in the near term for most companies. Uptime found 34% of respondents said they believe AI will reduce their data-center operations staffing in the next five years; 43% think it will reduce staffing needs eventually, but not in the next five years; and 23% said it won't have an impact.

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