Standardizing Data Center Education Can Work Wonders

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Tom Roberts is President of AFCOM, the leading association supporting the educational and professional development needs of data center professionals around the globe.

Tom_Roberts_tnTOM ROBERTS
AFCOM

If you’re struggling to fill a job in the data center, you are not alone. With approximately 4 million IT jobs available just in the United States, to say a shortage of qualified people exists today is an understatement. It has created a worker’s market with only 4 percent unemployment in the technology sector—about half the overall jobless rate.

This shortage exists for any number of reasons:

  • Graduates from universities and two-year tech schools entering the workforce are greener than a solar-powered data center and require far too much on-the-job training.
  • Those currently employed in IT seem to be staying put because they like what they’re doing and companies are no longer in layoff mode.
  • Others have reached or are rapidly approaching retirement and taking their decades of experience with them.
  • High-profile companies like Facebook, Google and Apple seem far more “sexy” than traditional corporations and directly compete with attracting the best and brightest from the younger generation.

I believe the best way to conquer all of the above challenges is to standardize the education path for data center professionals. Treat those in the industry just like the architects, engineers, school administrators, mental health professionals and social workers who must adhere to rigorous CEU requirements to move up the ladder or stay qualified.

The source of education is secondary; it can be gained through tech schools, conferences or corporate America. This will help boost standardization with respect to career paths, job descriptions, and skillsets.

Here’s what I would like to see happen. In addition to being president of AFCOM, I’m chairman of Data Center World, a conference and trade show for data center professionals. For the first time we are offering attendance certification for those who attend our educational sessions. Then, in the near future, these records of attendance can be used as CEUs to supplement their current certification(s) obtained from the leading data center education companies (EPI, ICOR, C-Net Training, IDCP, etc.).

As an association with a goal of advancing data center and facilities management professionals, AFCOM’s role is to provide ongoing education like it has for more than 30 years. I think it makes a lot of sense to work hand-in-hand with these companies so that education gained from conferences also count toward specific career goals/paths.

If we can cross-track and document education from all different sources and provide an easy way for data center professionals to access a composite list, it would be a win-win for those recruiting and looking for work.

Right now, inconsistencies are far too common. Two companies may be recruiting for a person to fill the same position, i.e. facilities manager, but the actual responsibilities and needed skills don’t match up. No two IT job descriptions are the same. You may attract a person with a mechanical engineering degree and some who fixes furnaces with the same advertisement. I read that the typical time-to-hire process for an individual IT resource is 55 days. Who has that kind of time?

Change never stops in this industry, and now more than ever, you must keep your data center current or fall behind. The fact that so many companies can’t seem to find the right people with the right skills is a disaster waiting to happen.

Let’s all work together to make sure it doesn’t.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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