Published 18 Apr 2024

Early development programmes have a strong part to play in the current data centre skills shortage

By, Mary Pender, Director of Talent

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In today's fast-paced digital landscape, the demand for skilled professionals in the data centre industry has never been higher. And it's not just in our sector, sourcing technical talent and strategies to attract and retain them continues to be an issue in most sectors as a recent Deloitte article highlighted. 

I talked previously about the technical skills gap in the UK and its clear organisations are facing an uphill battle, as a talent leader I believe that proactive measures are essential to address this skills shortage if we are to continue to drive industry growth. That's why our new apprenticeship programme, is a key first step in nurturing that next generation of data centre leaders, helping to bridge the talent gap that plagues our industry.

Investing in future talent

Apprenticeships represent a cornerstone in our talent pathway, offering a unique opportunity for young professionals to earn while gaining industry-relevant qualifications and practical experience. In today's uncertain times, with many young people unsure of their career paths post-pandemic disruptions, apprenticeships provide a clear pathway to success.

We have had success in the past with them but onboarding our five new apprentices in one cohort represents our most ambitious investment to date. It sees them take up positions at our facilities in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Maidenhead and Manchester. The new recruits will work alongside seasoned professionals, who will help guide them towards attaining those industry-recognised qualifications.

Unsurprisingly. the data centre world is often unfamiliar to school leavers and graduates exploring career options. To access those young people interested in technology roles yet unaware of data centre opportunities, we quickly recognised the need to collaborate with specialist providers and engaged with Gateshead College and Elite Training in Scotland to tap into existing talent pools and identify promising candidates. This collaborative approach has proved invaluable to us to ensure a seamless transition for apprentices into the data centre world while also equipping our internal leaders with the necessary skills to mentor and support their development.

A win-win situation

For me, this apprenticeship programme is not just about acquiring new talent; it's about creating a culture of continuous learning and development within our organisation. It delivers real value to our existing people, offering them an opportunity to grow their own skillsets through coaching, mentoring, and leadership.

For some, it may offer their first chance to take on a supervisory role and hone their mentoring abilities, so it is as important as a talent leader that I ensure the tools and support they need to flourish are readily available. And in truth the jump from a technical role to a leadership one is not insignificant; therefore providing them with the right training and support to manage, mentor and formally appraise the new apprentices to meet their on-the-job qualification standards has to be as important as the recruitment process itself. By fostering this reciprocal learning environment, we're not only investing in the future of our industry but also ensuring that our team remains at the forefront of innovation and excellence.

A self-perpetuating learning cycle

I feel sure this new apprentice programme can help us create a self-perpetuating learning cycle within our business to retain and develop talent by offering continuous growth opportunities. Our new apprentices gain deep organisational knowledge alongside their qualifications, but they also bring fresh perspectives that challenge conventional thinking. Their differing approaches to problem-solving and unique generational viewpoints on the modern workplace can challenge our thinking and should be embraced. It's vital we remain receptive to these diverse perspectives, as today's apprentices are not just our future workforce, they also represent the clients of the future. By listening and incorporating their ideas, we can better adapt our processes and offerings to meet evolving demands.

In turn, our existing people have an invaluable learning opportunity not only to share their knowledge, but also to gain leadership skills that are equally important to our future growth potential. This perpetuates a self-sustaining cycle where past apprentices can nurture the next generation. Some of our current leaders started out as apprentices themselves and display a "pay it forward" mindset. Hopefully this programme will deliver the next tranche of leaders for our business and help us to grow in the years ahead.

Looking towards the future

As we embark on this journey, I firmly believe that apprenticeships can be one of the cornerstones of a strong future talent pipeline. Fostering a culture of learning and development, to increase people engagement, job satisfaction, and loyalty. Additionally, it provides the platform to ensure our talent pool remains skilled and adaptable, enabling it to respond effectively to changing business needs and competitive pressures.

By embracing these opportunities, organisations in the data centre space can not only address their immediate talent needs but also lay the foundation for future growth and success. Together, let's build a resilient workforce that drives innovation and propels the data centre industry forward.

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