Making the data centre industry attractive to the next generation
Attending The DCA’s Data Centre Transformation Conference was a breath of fresh air (excuse the environmental pun). Not only was it ‘in-person’ but the desire for the dataentre and IT industry to evolve was palpable amongst the delegation.
Industry professionals gathered with like-minded academics and local students to discuss, debate and deliberate on what change the UK data centre industry must undergo to future proof itself.
Sustainability was on everyone’s minds and this was reflected within the programme. From open discussions on the measures organisations could adopt to debating whether the government needed to step in, I am convinced it was an event that will produce change.
One area that piqued my interest was the understanding and agreement that talent had a role to play.
With 85% of delegates stating that their organisation would be the perfect environment to welcome young talent – is young talent the answer to our prayers?
The introduction of diversity of thought, from those with fresh ideas and a different outlook when it comes to sustainability, a generation starkly aware of our environmental commitment to the planet. Now if the answer is yes, with less than half of the companies present offering opportunities for those in their early careers, questions quickly turned to barriers and more importantly how to overcome them.
What is preventing young people from joining the data centre industry?
One in three cite awareness as the main barrier to young people joining our industry. So the question becomes who’s role is it to promote the industry. With calls for subject matter to feature within the national curriculum. The department of education regularly engages with industry professionals and research academics to ensure a modern and relevant programme of study is available, but how often can we expect this to happen? If we are being honest with ourselves, our industry changes so much in a 5-year period. Having said that, highlighting the impact our industry has on the modern world in a classroom setting does create instant awareness, so much so that without it students who joined us just in May, only found out due to a guest lecturer on campus. With almost every secondary school in the UK engaging with the Gatsby benchmarks in line with their OFSTED assessments, could this be the way to start the revolution when it comes to careers education. If so, we must standardise our story to deliver an on-brand message to the absorbent yet inquisitive minds of the next generation.
In defining our story and what it is we want to be known for as a workplace for the future generations, we do have to look inward and ask are we realistic in our expectations? Ranging from career progression and development right through to remuneration and compensation packages. Today’s generation are facing a cost of living crisis like no others in recent times, yet more and more companies are offsetting low starting salaries for the promise of training and career progression. May I remind you of Maslow’s basic hierarchy of needs, career progression promises do not pay this month’s rent, and even if they did, often they do not materialise.
The other factors discussed at the annual event organised by The DCA, gave weight to the role of mentoring, coaching and the prevalence of unconscious biases, of which the former gained 22% of the audience’s recognition as a barrier to entry.
We need to create a sustainable recruitment and retention strategy across our industry and in doing so we will produce an industry brand reputation that is like no other. We have a USP, the daily lives of every young person in the UK today relies on the existence of our industry. Without data centres, there is no social media, no online banking, no remote learning and no streaming services. In preparing our brand for the audience we wish to attract we must act now.
Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Now is the time to stop just talking about the demographic disparity our industry possesses but rather to act, otherwise things will not change. The talent is out there, leaving school or graduating from university every 12 months.
So, ladies and gentlemen this is a call to arms, for all of those who are DCA members to let them know if you offer early careers opportunities. To make things easier there is a LinkedIN group dedicated to the early careers professionals of the industry available too.
Awareness is just the beginning. To find out more about what else is to come, check out The Rising Star Programme here.
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I'm the founder here at HireHigher, with the mission to ensure students can make informed choices on their options after education.
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