#Data Centres #Skill Shortage #COVID-19 #Digital Transformation

Data centre job market projected to grow to 2.3mn by 2025

The Uptime Institute predicts that data centre staffing demands are expected to skyrocket in the next five years

|Jan 27|magazine8 min read

The data centre industry had a fairly unique 2020. At a time when most sectors - hospitality and retail in particular - saw massive layoffs and furloughs, the demand for data centre services, and as a result data centre staff, continued its meteoric rise in spite of the pandemic. 

A new report from the Uptime Institute - the leading certification body for data centre design; the folks who determine whether a facility is Tier I, II, or higher - was released on Tuesday. The Global Data Center Staffing Forecast 2021-2025 is the industry’s first comprehensive breakdown of workforce needs since the start of the pandemic. 

The report’s authors note two megatrends set to create potential pain points for data centre operators looking to meet staffing demands over the coming years: a historic growth in demand, coinciding with a wave of experienced data centre staff in mature markets reaching retirement - colourfully dubbed the “silver tsunami”. 

Historic demand

Across all regions and markets around the globe, the combined pressures of industry 4.0 and the COVID-19 pandemic are continuing to accelerate data centre demand. Data centres are being commissioned, designed and built at a rate never seen before in the industry. 

All of these processes require staff and, while automation has been doing a lot of legwork during the pandemic (using AI to increase efficiency and reduce the number of required number of on-site staff through predictive maintenance) as well as better DCIM platforms and the more modular design approaches being championed by organisations like the Open Compute Project, the industry’s need for skilled workers is only projected to grow as the decade continues. 

 Taj El-Khayat, Regional Director MENA at Citrix noted last year that, “The digital transformation’s acceleration across organisations due to the pandemic has exposed skill shortages. This has especially been the case for data centre operators, requested to provide the best and most stable service while facing a drastic and sudden increase in load.”

As a result, the data centre industry is expected to spend the next five years scrambling to fill more jobs than there may be available workers. 

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Courtesy of the Uptime Institute

In 2019, the global data centre industry employed approximately 2mn people. By 2025, that figure is expected to rise to 2.3mn, driven largely by growth in the APAC market, but also North America and EMEA. 

The silver tsunami

In the more mature data centre markets, like northern Europe and North America, the Uptime Institute has raised an additional red flag. Due to the age of the industry and the speed at which it was initially built out at the end of the 1990s with the birth of the internet, “many employees are due to retire about the same time,” notes the report, cautioning that the coming silver tsunami could cause an additional surge in staffing demands. The effect, write the report’s authors, could “last for the coming decade.” 

The report notes that, in particular, technical staff are notoriously difficult to recruit for data centres. It also adds that mechanical and electrical engineers in strategy and operations roles, and all types of controls and monitoring employees, will all be needed in greater numbers over the coming years. 

In order to overcome these challenges and meet unprecedented demand for digital infrastructure, Rhonda Ascierto, vice president of research at the Uptime Institute notes that the “fast-growing and dynamic” sector will “need people from all backgrounds, all over the world,” if it is to meet the coming challenges. 

Data centres struggle with on-site staffing
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