With the rapid adoption of modern online services, cloud-based applications and Internet of Things (IoT), businesses are demanding more data center services to support their digital transformation. This heightened demand offers exponential growth for the data center industry and presents several through-life challenges for developers and operators alike. In this article, we'll look at the development of the data center industry, challenges faced in hiring experienced personnel, and solutions to safeguard your growing business. 

The Growth of Data Centers and the Challenges of Staffing

The data center industry is booming; the global data center market is expected to generate $77 billion in 2022. This number is expected to rise to an annual $279 billion by 2032, following an anticipated spike in worldwide data services demand. This growth is due to the increasing demand for cloud computing and the unstoppable rise of big data. However, the lack of available experience in the industry is a growing concern. 

With the growing demand for experienced data center personnel, the pool of qualified and experienced candidates is limited. As a result, companies have to compete with each other to attract and retain the best talent, resulting in increasing pressure on salary costs.

Causes of the Data Center Staffing Shortfall 

Data center capacity is dramatically expanding throughout every region of the world, stretching the sector’s talent supply increasingly thin. Data centers need seasoned professionals who can build these facilities and manage them 24/7. This has led to companies struggling to find qualified employees. Unfortunately, awareness is lacking as to the variety of career opportunities this industry has to offer. Data center industry career opportunities range from engineers, IT specialists, operations, network engineers, monitoring personnel, security and more. 

There is a lack of promotion opportunities for the younger generation and the industry is likely to soon face retirements in the sector that will further impact this shortfall. An Uptime Institute study shows that approximately 50% of the data center industry workforce is primarily male with over 20 years of industry experience. 

According to an Uptime Institute report, only 1 of every 4 data centers actively creates opportunities to hire more women. The number of women in tech has been steadily increasing for years and has reached 28.3% of the industry workforce for the first time, a trend expected to continue well into the future. While the percentage of women in tech roles is still relatively low compared to men, it is on the rise, and those data center organizations that focus on recruiting and retaining women will have a competitive advantage. 

The Growth of the Cloud and Remote Work

With more companies moving their operations to the cloud, there was a 35% increase in public cloud infrastructure in 2021. 

This shift to the cloud affects the industry in two primary ways; increased demand for data center services and decreased available workforce. As more businesses move to the cloud, data center service providers are seeing a corresponding increase in demand for their services due to the growth of the world's digital infrastructure and an increase in remote working. We live in a digital era and with the rise of cloud computing, IoT, data centers play an increasingly critical role in society. With more use, comes greater demand for infrastructure.

Solutions to the Data Center Staffing Shortfall 

As a result of the current staffing shortfall, data center operators have developed initiatives to focus on recruitment to address these challenges by developing a stable workforce business model. This may consist of the following key components:

  • Building a career path and succession plan for each role in operations.
  • Better defining the roles and responsibilities within the organization. 
  • Defining what training and development is necessary for each role.
  • Implementing policies that support and encourage diversity.
  • Putting systems in place to identify, attract, and retain top talent.

A stable workforce business model will help attract and retain top talent. It provides them with a clear career path and the opportunity to learn and grow within an organization.

Encourage STEM and Certifications and Training

Younger generations who are interested in working in tech may not have the required experience. Increasing awareness of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education by offering internships and apprenticeship programs in data centers addresses this. Promoting advanced employee initiatives in a company will be appealing to prospective employees looking for an appreciative employer and to younger generations.

Furthermore, encouraging and offering opportunities for certifications can help data centers overcome the challenge of hiring experienced personnel and at the same time, improve their workforce. Certifications are a way to demonstrate that an individual has the required skill set and knowledge for a particular role and are an effective way to improve the skills of current workforces. There are a variety of certifications that are relevant to the data center industry. 

The most popular ones are:

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Certified Data Center Professional (CDCP)
  • Certified Data Center Specialist (CDCS)
  • Data Center Design Specialist (DCDS)

Increasing diversity, improving hiring initiatives, investing in certifications, and utilizing relevant technology can help attract and retain the experienced talent needed to thrive in this industry.