As I read the results of our recent Data Center 2025 industry survey, one finding was of particular interest to this longtime HR professional. According to the survey, 16% of all participants expect to retire by 2025. That number is notable on its own, but in the U.S., it jumps to 33%. That means one-third of all data center personnel could be leaving the workforce in the next six years – a massive loss of talent and institutional knowledge that would be difficult to manage under ideal circumstances.
These are not ideal circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong – the data center industry is as healthy as it has ever been, and demand for IT services isn’t going to ebb anytime soon. But the way we deliver those services – the way we think about the data center itself – is changing radically. Computing is moving closer to the end-user, to the edge of increasingly complex, diversified networks, and it’s happening fast. When we looked at survey participants who have edge sites today or expect to have them in 2025, that group collectively expects their total number of edge sites to increase by 226% by 2025.
That growth is exciting for our industry and creates countless opportunities for our customers, but when it happens simultaneously with a mass exodus of experienced data center professionals … let’s just say it adds a layer of complexity and uncertainty to an already complex ecosystem. And complexity and uncertainty are as welcome in the data center as a water leak.
Part of the solution is technology-driven. We’re already seeing more intelligent IT and infrastructure systems capable of machine learning and artificial intelligence. These systems collect and analyze a flood of data to simplify network operation and enable predictive service and maintenance, which is critical when managing dozens or even hundreds of edge deployments. This is no surprise – we are a tech-driven industry, so naturally, we seek out tech-driven solutions.
But technology can take us only so far. We still need an influx of new data center personnel not just to replace those imminent retirees, but also to bring new thinking and ideas to the industry at this time of change. On that front, our progress as an industry has been slower. There are few data center-focused bachelor’s degree programs available in the U.S. and Europe, and those programs are still adjusting to the rapid changes across the industry. Some data center organizations are taking job training in-house, bypassing traditional channels specifically because today’s jobs are decidedly non-traditional. When a big part of the job description is change management, candidates with an aptitude for critical thinking and problem-solving but basic computing and IT skills can be every bit as desirable as those with a more traditional background.
Vertiv is working on both fronts, developing more intelligent solutions while simultaneously building out internal training programs to better develop new hires and our existing staff. The goal, as always is bringing our expertise to bear on these types of problems for our customers all over the world.
How is your organization managing the oncoming workforce challenges?